India’s vaccine gift to reach Colombo on Thur

New Delhi: A consignment containing 500,000 doses of COVISHIELD vaccines manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII) will reach Colombo on Thursday as India’s gift as part of neighbourhood first policy.

This gift of Covid-19 vaccines to Sri Lanka is a part of India’s “Vaccine Maitri” initiative under which India has gifted vaccines to seven other countries in the region.

The delivery of the Covid-19 vaccines to Sri Lanka is a fulfillment of PM Narendra Modi’s commitment made to PM Mahinda Rajapaksa during the Virtual Bilateral Summit held in September 2020.

Colombo has finalized the priority list of vulnerable groups including healthcare workers and armed personnel, who will be first to receive the vaccine. Sri Lanka approved emergency use of the vaccine on 23 January.

India has played the role of the first responder in the region. It has extended a USD 400-million currency swap facility to Sri Lanka to ensure financial stability of the country during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also gifted approximately 26 tons of essential lifesaving medicines and equipment to Colombo. India was the first to send such a consignment on-board two special Air India aircrafts. India also facilitated the repatriation of several hundred Lankan citizens from various Indian cities.

Cooperation in maritime security and HADR is a hallmark of the close partnership between India Sri Lanka. On 03 September last year Mt New Diamond, a crude carrier carrying 2.4 lakh tons of crude oil caught fire, off the east coast of Sri Lanka. Indian Coast Guard responded immediately and after concerted efforts by 07 Indian Coast Guard ships, 01 Indian Navy ship and 03 Dorniers the fire was brought under control by 09 September.

President of Sri Lanka, himself tweeted and expressed his gratitude to the Indian Defense Forces for their efforts in controlling the fires in MT New Diamond and appreciated their contribution in conserving Marine biodiversity by preventing a disastrous situation out in the ocean.

At the invitation of Secretary of Ministry of Defence of Sri Lanka Maj Gen (Retd). Kamal Gunaratne, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval visited Colombo to participate in the 4th NSA Level Meeting on Trilateral Maritime Security Cooperation on November 27-28. The meeting provided an opportunity for discussion on issues pertaining to cooperation in maritime security in the Indian Ocean region.

As his first foreign visit in 2021, and also the first by a foreign dignitary to Sri Lanka in the New Year, Foreign Minister visited Colombo from 5-7 January. During the visit, Lankan side requested India for urgent delivery of Covid vaccines. The supply of 5 lakh doses is a fulfilment of that request.

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