Bangladesh to join China-led initiative on COVID-19 cooperation among South Asian nations

Anisur Rahman
·3-min read

Dhaka, Apr 26 (PTI) Bangladesh will join a China-led South Asian foreign ministers meeting on COVID-19 cooperation on Tuesday during which deliberations will be held on setting up coronavirus vaccine storage facilities in the region and other measures to fight the pandemic, Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen said on Monday.

The foreign ministers of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan, Pakistan and China will attend the virtual meeting.

“The meeting will be held tomorrow (Tuesday), and we will discuss setting up a South Asia COVID 19 vaccine storage facilities,” Momen told state-run BSS.

Momen said the proposed vaccine storage facility could help make vaccines available to the countries in need on an emergency basis. 'But the proposal is still under preliminary discussion and framework among the nations is yet to be developed,' he said.

The Chinese initiative came amid a production shortfall of vaccines and a massive surge in the coronavirus cases in the South Asian nations.

Bangladesh is a prime recipient of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines produced in India's Serum Institute, but the alarming surge in the positive cases in India has created uncertainty over its expected availability in due time.

Dhaka earlier said Bangladesh would exhaust all options to get the vaccines to save the people's lives.

Momen said Bangladesh’s decision to join Chinese COVID-19 cooperation platform for South Asian nations would not affect Dhaka-New Delhi ties.

The foreign minister said that China did not say its initiative excluded India and rather informed Dhaka that more countries were likely to join the platform later.

He said Bangladesh has been maintaining geopolitical balance with both India and China.

“We are with India, we are with China as well...we don’t have any biased view in our bilateral relations with these two nations,” Momen added.

China has hosted such meetings in the past involving other South Asian countries.

He reminded that Bangladesh’s participation in Chinese Belt and Road initiative did not affect its relationship with India.

Last week, the foreign minister confirmed that Bangladesh agreed to purchase Chinese vaccines soon and Beijing has pledged to provide six lakh doses of COVID-19 vaccines as a gift first.

India's Opposition leaders recently demanded an immediate moratorium on the vaccine export, fearing that the country could run out of COVID-19 vaccines for its own citizens, prompting Dhaka to vigorously hunt for other sources including China and Russia.

On January 21, Bangladesh received its first ever COVID-19 vaccine consignment while India sent 20 million doses as a gift as part of their neighbourhood plus policy.

Later, during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi here, Bangladesh also got 1.2 million doses of vaccine as a gift.

Apart from the gift, Bangladesh purchased 30 million doses of India-made vaccine under a tripartite memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on November 5 and a subsequent agreement on December 13 among Bangladesh government, Beximco Pharmaceuticals Ltd (BPL) and the Serum Institute.

Under the agreement, Bangladesh is supposed to receive five million doses in each month, but after getting seven million of doses, Dhaka is yet to receive the second consignment that was scheduled to arrive here by March.

On Thursday, a spokesperson of the Indian High Commission here said that India would continue to do its best to support the vaccine rollout in neighbourhood countries.

“We can only share what is actually available and the fact is that there is a huge amount of demand and not enough supply,” he said. PTI AR PMS AKJ PMS PMS