Equitable access to jabs important to fight COVID, India's 'vaccine maitri' trying to ensure access to all: EAM

NEW DELHI: Asserting that health security was now integral to national security, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday said there is a need for ensuring equitable access to coronavirus vaccines across the world as no one will be safe till everyone is safe and that the access to vaccines can be ensured by ramping up its production, including in countries like India.

In an interactive session at the opening day of the Raisina Dialogue, which is being held virtually, Jaishankar also said that India’s ‘vaccine maitri’ approach was trying to ensure no one gets left behind.

At the same time, there was nothing unusual in the tendency by countries across the globe to look at their own requirements, the minister said, and added that there was a need for a larger approach in dealing with the matter considering the difficulties being faced by smaller countries.

Underlining that in diplomacy today, doing good is being smart, the minister said ‘vaccine maitri’ reflects the larger outlook of ‘Vaisudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (world is one family), asserting that health security is now integral to national security.

“I think equitable access (to vaccines) is critically important in this. Because we all know that no one will be safe till everyone is safe,” Jaishankar said when asked to comment on the global approach in dealing with the crisis.

Jaishankar also touched upon India’s handling of the pandemic, its strength in the medical sector and the way it extended help to various countries including in African continent to help them deal with the pandemic.

“In our case, our vaccine producers had some contractual commitments; they have commitments to COVAX,” he added.

COVAX, officially known as the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility, is a global collaboration for speeding up the development, manufacture and equitable distribution of new vaccines.

Talking about the challenges being faced by smaller countries to deal with the pandemic, he said they do not have the wherewithal to access the market and that countries like India can play a crucial role.

“I think part of India’s rise would be really to demonstrate our capabilities and I think the world will be better served by these additional capabilities.

Capabilities which are in the hands of the country which embraces the world, which believes in international cooperation,” he said, referring to vaccine production.

He said health security is emerging as a priority area for cooperation and India can play an important role in it.

“I think in a way today, India is the laboratory. It is certainly an additional capability. We hope in many cases it is a good partner. I think it is also important we tell our own story effectively so that people really understand what is going on,” he said.

Jaishankar also talked about the geopolitical power play, and said every rising power is unique.

“I would like to be an enlightened power which does not do what all the others did before me; which is to shut the door as soon as you enter the room.

I would like to make sure that the door is open for other powers to come in,” he said.

The external affairs minister said the world will not be a multipolar one until the rise of Africa.

Organised by the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), a think-tank, in partnership with the MEA, Raisina Dialogue is India’s premier conference on geopolitics and geo-economics, and its sixth edition is being held from April 13 to 16.