Momen to join China-led FM meets on COVID cooperation today

Publish: 5:21 PM, April 27, 2021 | Update: 5:21:PM, April 27, 2021

DHAKA,  – Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen will join a Beijing-led South Asian foreign ministers meeting on COVID-19 cooperation today.

Talking to BSS yesterday afternoon, Momen said foreign ministers of Nepal, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Afghanistan were others to join the meeting initiated by his Chinese counterpart to discuss cooperation in combating the pandemic including accessibility to COVID-19 vaccines developed by China.

“The meeting will be held tomorrow (Tuesday) , and we will discuss about setting up a South Asia COVID 19 vaccine storage facilities,” he said.

Momen said that China proposed vaccine storage facility was expected to reach inoculates to the countries in need on emergency basis but “the proposal is still under preliminary discussion, no framework among the nations is yet to develop in this regard”.

He said that East Asian ASEAN countries by now set up such kind of vaccine storage for their member states.

The Chinese initiative came amid production shortfall of vaccines while most South Asian nations witnessed a massive coronavirus surge.

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

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

Momen said Bangladesh’s decision to join to Chinese COVID- cooperation platform for South Asian nations would not affect Dhaka-New Delhi ties “in no way”.

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.

He reminded that Bangladesh’s participation in Chinese Road and Belt initiative “didn’t affect our relationship (with India)”.

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

Indian opposition leaders recently demanded an immediate moratorium on the vaccine export fearing that the country could run out of inoculates 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 gift as part of their neighborhood plus policy.

Later, during the visit of Indian premier Narendra Modi here, Bangladesh also got 1.2 million doses of vaccine as 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 5 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, spokesperson of Indian high commission here said that India would continue to do its best to support the vaccine rollout in neighborhood 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 told media.