India has assured Bangladesh of ‘early, constant and committed supply’ of COVID-19 vaccine.

This assurance was given by Foreign Secretary Harshvardhan Shringla.

Shringla’s assurance follows media reports quoting Serum Institute of India (SII) Chief Adar Poonawalla that vaccines produced by SII were ‘first meant for Indians’.

The media reports also quoted SII Chief Adar Poonawalla talking about ban on export of vaccines at the moment.

These recent reports created confusions and media furore in Bangladesh as Dhaka has an agreement with New Delhi for priority supply of the AstraZeneca-Oxford developed COVID-19 vaccine.

Poonawalla’s statement seemed to negate the agreement SII had signed with Bangladesh’s Beximco Pharma for expeditious supply of 30 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

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Poonawalla’s statement triggered massive uproar with social media flooded with messages criticising the remark.

“See how unreliable India is,” screamed a Facebook post, one of thousands flooding the platform.

Foreign Secretary Harshvardhan Shringla, a former High Commissioner to Bangladesh, has tried to assuage ruffled feathers by promising ‘priority supply’ of the vaccine.

The ruling Awami League Government in Bangladesh had expressed concern following the SRI Chief’s statement.

The opposition parties in Bangladesh has been accusing the ruling Awami League Government of being ‘far too pro-India’.

Bangladesh had refused to import China-produced Sinovac vaccine.

Meanwhile, China is trying to push its Sinovac vaccine into the South Asian nations markets.

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India, on the other hand, is racing against time and seems to be in a diplomatic competition with China on the issue of COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, SII Chief Adar Poonawalla too has responded to the recent uproar in Bangladesh over COVID-19 vaccine supply.

He said, “I would like to clarify two matters: there is confusion in the public domain, exports of vaccines are permitted to all countries and a joint public statement clearing up any recent miscommunication with regards to Bharat Biotech will be made”.

Subir Bhaumik

Subir Bhaumik is a Kolkata-based senior journalist. He can be reached at: sbhaum@gmail.com