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India on Thursday officially handed over 20 lakh doses of COVID-19 vaccine as a gift to Bangladesh.
The vaccines were provided to Bangladesh at a crucial time when the number of coronavirus cases in this country was rising.
“India had stood by Bangladesh during the (1971) Liberation War, and today, when the pandemic is rattling the world, India again came with gifts of vaccines,” Bangladesh foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said.
A chartered Air India plane, carrying the Covishield vaccine landed at Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on Thursday. Indian High Commissioner Vikram Doraiswami handed over the vaccines formally to Momen at a formal function.
Momen said the vaccine supply is a gift of goodwill that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina have achieved through building strong partnership between the two neighbouring nations.
Health minister Zahid Maleque joined the function during which Momen termed the New Delhi initiative as a proof of true friendship between Bangladesh and India.
Doraiswami said that India, in line with the discussions held during the virtual summit between the two prime ministers on December 17, delivered the vaccines within a week of their rollout in the country.
Anti- Coronavirus vaccination began in India on 16 January.
He said as part of India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy, his country accorded high priority to the India-Bangladesh relationship and the gift of 20 lakh doses of Covishield vaccine was in fact the biggest such dispatch by India to any of the neighbouring countries.
Bangladesh has so far recorded 7,966 COVID-19 deaths since the outbreak of the pandemic in March last year while the total number of infections have surged to 530,271, according to authorities.
India’s Minister for External Affairs Dr S Jaishankar had earlier tweeted on “VaccineMaitri”, saying India “reaffirms the highest priority” to relations with Bangladesh.
Apart from the current delivery of vaccines, Bangladesh is also set to purchase 3 crore doses of India-made vaccine under a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on 5 November and a subsequent agreement on 13 December among Bangladesh government, Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd (BPL) and the Serum Institute of India (SII).
India has also handed over 1 million similar vaccines to Nepal.
On Wednesday, India sent 150,000 doses of Covishield vaccines to Bhutan and 100,000 doses to the Maldives.