Vaccine Diplomacy – India’s bargaining Chip

With the onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic, vaccines are now more important than ever. This introduces a new facet of international relations in the global economy. This is vaccine diplomacy. This form of diplomacy will only grow in importance from this point forth and India is primed and ready to take full advantage of it. Vaccine diplomacy is essentially a way for countries to build and/or strengthen relations with other nations, using vaccines. This is only possible for countries that have the capability to produce vaccines on a large scale or for nations that have rights to the formula of a vaccine. Licensing these rights can be used to build new relations, while it could mean a blatant and explicit statement- that one nation is against the other. Countries that have strong manufacturing centres for vaccines could exclusively distribute them to nations that they have good ties with or want to create good ties with. This is the idea behind vaccine diplomacy and India right now is in a perfect position to wield power and gain global significance as the hub of vaccine manufacturing and possibly development.

Firstly, how does a nation gain the access to vaccines in the first place? In order to trade them for said purpose, a country must first have a large supply of the vaccine or the means to produce it. India is a rapidly growing entity in the global pharmaceutical industry. It occupies approximately 20% of the global market for generic drugs by volume and caters to over 62% of global vaccine demand. This means that India already has the means of production and is a globally trusted source of pharmaceutical products. The first step to take with vaccine diplomacy is to exploit the global demand for the COVID-19 Vaccine. The only obstacle is access to the formula of a working vaccine. Fortunately, we have our own firms researching a vaccine as well as institutes abroad willing to share the components of the vaccine so that we may begin manufacturing. One such institute is Oxford, although we have not received approval to manufacture their vaccine, we have been the go ahead to begin testing it which if proven to be successful enough, we will likely be given the rights to manufacture and distribute the vaccine. In addition to this, our very own firms like Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadila are working to develop a vaccine to treat COVID-19 on their own.

On the 15th of August 2020, Prime minister of India, Narendra Modi announced that India was ready to produce COVID-19 vaccines for domestic consumption as soon as they get approved. One of the first steps India will take with this vaccine, is mending a frayed relationship with Bangladesh. Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan has stated that India will follow a “Neighbourhood First Policy” with the vaccine produced domestically going to our neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Myanmar and then to all other nations that demand the vaccine. This also provides India a way to establish dominance over China in the global pharmaceutical industry. China has made similar deals with Bangladesh regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and will most likely be able to begin exporting it sooner than India as they have had more time to recuperate from the virus. However, China is not currently trusted in many regards by nations across the world and was never a largely trusted source in the global pharmaceutical industry.


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