India: A friend in need for Nepal and the world

Dipali Rana

  • Read Time 5 min.

India is Nepal’s largest trade partner and over the years both countries have engaged in smooth trade operations to facilitate growth and development in Nepal. The bilateral relations between both nations have led to educational and employment opportunities. The extension of medical assistance in the form of vaccines, medicines, and other equipment to Nepal has also fostered cordial and extensive relationships.

Nepal received strong support and solidarity from the people and government of India in advancing its home-grown peace process and constitution making through the Constituent Assembly. Following the devastating earthquakes of 2015, India promptly offered help. It has also been supporting Nepal’s reconstruction efforts.

Medical assistance

Medical assistance is of particular importance here. The relationship between the two nations was further strengthened with the introduction of the Vaccine Maitri initiativeIndia was the first nation to assist Nepal by providing approximately one million doses of vaccine, while Nepal was desperately looking for vaccines to inoculate its people.

India has emerged as one of the top medical destinations in the world. It provides the highest quality healthcare at the lowest price. The government of India, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Ministry of Tourism are working hard to make India a prominent medical destination. For this purpose, a medical visa (M Visa) has been introduced, allowing medical tourists to be in India for a specific period.

India is thriving as a global medical destination across the globe. Medical tourists from international borders come to India in search of advanced and cost-effective medical treatment. In India, they get access to the latest medical technologies, high quality of healthcare services, with better recovery rates at a nominal price. International trade, globalization, and medical advancement enhance medical tourism in India. 

India was the first nation to assist Nepal by providing approximately one million doses of vaccine, while Nepal was desperately looking for vaccines to inoculate its people.

Thus, its medical diplomacy enables India to emerge as a responsible and reliable player during a crucial time when many established international players have failed to do so. In the post-Covid-19 world, India has a comparative advantage in becoming a reliable provider of global public goods and services in healthcare. India’s Pharma industry is the third-largest in the world. About 18 percent of the world’s generic drugs are supplied by India.

It is also one of the leading producers of vaccines globally and contributes to almost 50 percent of global vaccine demands. This high demand is mainly because of the lower pricing. India’s existing advantage of large-scale pharmaceutical production has enabled it to significantly leverage all of its initiatives to support the growth of the healthcare sectors of other nations by vastly increasing its pharmaceutical exports, positioning itself as a pioneer medical tourist destination for those seeking affordable and quality secondary/tertiary health services, and building capacities and sharing technical expertise.

The country with big heart

India took Vaccine Maitri initiative to provide Covid-19 vaccines to countries around the world. It started providing vaccines from January 20, 2021. As of April 9, 2021, India had almost delivered around 64.5 million doses of vaccines to 85 countries. Out of these, roughly 10.5 million doses were gifted to 45 countries by the government—the remaining 54 million were then supplied by the Serum Institute of India under its commercial and COVAX obligations. Bhutan and the Maldives were the few first countries to receive vaccines in grant assistance.  Then shipments to Nepal, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Seychelles followed. As of 15 March 2021, India donated more than eight million doses to 37 countries worldwide. India is also rigorously supplying vaccines on a commercial basis to countries like Canada, the UK, Saudi Arabia, etc. Serum Institute of India has been selected to be one of the key suppliers to the COVAX initiative. India has provided several million doses of vaccines to various countries through the COVAX initiative.

Indian Ambassador to Nepal Vinay Mohan Kwatra hands over vaccine consignment to Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli. (File photo/@kpsharmaoli)

India has provided vaccines and vital medicines to Nepal. The two countries continue to cooperate in fighting the global pandemic. According to the sources, the Indian Army also gifted one hundred thousand doses of vaccines to the Nepal Army. The Indian Army officials handed over the vaccines brought on Air India aircraft to their counterparts in Nepal Army at the Tribhuvan International Airport.

The best of the relations India and Nepal have during the pandemic shows that the two countries can jointly work on many other fronts and achieve much better results.

India handed over ten ventilator machines worth Rs 28 million to Nepal. These ventilators are designed for a broad spectrum of applications to include advanced invasive or non-invasive respiratory support. They can subsequently support secondary care in the hospitals with ICU, tertiary multispecialty hospitals, and dedicated ICUs. They are also portable and handy in the transportation of patients who require intensive care. The Indian Army also has a long remarkable record of extending support to the Nepali Army as the primary responder for humanitarian assistance and relief. The gifting of ventilators is an extended part of this continued humanitarian cooperation between the two armies. Besides, the government of India has ensured that there is no disruption in trade and supply of essential goods to Nepal, despite the lockdown on both sides.

Together they rise  

Since time immemorial, people-to-people relations between Nepal and India have always remained unique and cordial because it is based on the two pillars of an open border system and people-to-people contacts of kinship. Owing to the open border system, the citizens of both these countries cross over the Nepal-India border for livelihood opportunities apart from marriages, familial ties, and cultural, social and economic security. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has visited Nepal four times in six years. This shows the importance India accords to Nepal. Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli spoke to him on the phone to greet him on the occasion of India’s Independence Day on August 15, 2020. Subsequently, three senior-most dignitaries of India also visited Nepal between October and December last year to mend the differences between the two countries. Such visits enhanced and re-opened the communication channels that had remained stalled for almost over a year.

Then the sixth Joint Commission (JC) meeting was held in New Delhi on January 15, 2021. Soon after, India provided one million doses of Covishield vaccine to Nepal as grant assistance. The vaccines which Nepal received from India have been provided to the needy population in all the seven provinces of the country. India also provided Nepal with 23 tonnes of essential medicines to fight the pandemic.  Indian as well as Nepali health professionals are collaborating their efforts on the ground to contain and end this global pandemic.

The best of the relations India and Nepal have during the pandemic shows that the two countries can jointly work on many other fronts and achieve much better results.

Dipali Rana is pursuing PhD degree at Amity University, India.

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