Which are the countries?
This includes CARICOM plus, Cuba and Dominican Republic.
Countries including Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Suriname, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, are CARICOM countries.
The vaccines are being sent to these countries as humanitarian aid.
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India extends a helping hand
Despite the global lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, India had sent medical assistance worth Rs 16 Crores to Latin America & Caribbean countries (LAC) and these included all CARICOM members.
During the pandemic, external affairs minister Dr S Jaishankar was in regular touch telephonically with his counterparts in CARICOM countries and had offered India’s full cooperation post-COVID.
Recently, the Prime Minister of Barbados reached out to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting 100,000 doses of vaccines. India has responded and the vaccines have reached that country.
Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit had written to Prime Minister Modi and in response, 70,000 doses of vaccine have reached that country which will vaccinate half of their population.
Around 400,000 doses for the countries in the Caribbean region are going to be dispatched shortly.
India and the Caribbean Region
Relations with the Caribbean region are historic and countries including Guyana, Jamaica Trinidad & Tobago, and Suriname, are home to a large Indian Diaspora of around 2 million whose forefathers arrived in Caribbean as indentured laborers of the British.
And, many of these CARICOM countries along with India are part of the Commonwealth and besides the strong bilateral relations they support each other in multilateral fora.
As has been reported earlier by Financial Express Online, the India – CARICOM Ministerial at the level of Foreign Ministers were held in 2015 and 2017 in New York on the sidelines of UNGA.
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First ever India-CARICOM Summit Level Meeting
And, in 2019, India- CARICOM relations witnessed a big boost when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with 14 leaders of the CARICOM group of countries on the sidelines of the UNGA on September 25, 2019 in New York.
India has given around 55 lakh doses of vaccines to the neighbourhood. These supplies were based on the requests from the countries in the neighbourhood. And these include: Bhutan (1.5 lakh), Maldives (1 lakh), Nepal (10 lakh), Bangladesh (20 lakh), Myanmar (15 lakh), Seychelles (50,000), Sri Lanka (5 lakhs), Mauritius (1 lakh). Last week, Bahrain (1 lakh) became the first country in West Asia to receive vaccine gift from India.
Where are the vaccines coming from?
The vaccines which are either being sent as humanitarian aid or commercially are all coming from the Pune based Serum Institute of India (SII) – which is the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines.
What vaccine is being sent commercially and as aid?
Financial Express Online has reported earlier Oxford-AstraZeneca has given territorial rights to SII to produce the COVISHIELD for the neighbourhood, Africa and Latin America. The SII also has an agreement with GAVI and several African nations and others for supplying the vaccines.
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Countries like Brazil, Mexico, Morocco, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Mongolia, among others have either received or are in the process of receiving the vaccines
What kind of Development assistance programmes India has for CARICOM nations?
USD 14 million Grant for Community Development Projects (CDP) in the CARICOM (USD 1 million for each country) and these programmes are in various stages of implementation.
There is a USD 150 million Line of Credit for Solar, Renewable Energy and Climate Change related projects.
Also, setting up of a Regional Centre for Excellence in Information Technology in Guyana.
In Belize, Regional Vocational Training Centre — by upgrading the existing India- funded Centre
Establishment of Distinguished Visitors Programme of ICCR for the Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region
And, there is an annual Special Course for CARICOM diplomats at the Sushma Swaraj Institute of Foreign Service (SSIFS)