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Pharmacy of the world: Jaishankar touts India’s role in global medical supply

antibiotic. Pharmacy of the world concept.
Image credit: Alexander Raths / 123rf

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, the Union Minister of External Affairs, has touted India’s role as ‘pharmacy of the world’. Jaishankar highlighted the country’s role in exporting vital medicines and equipment, amidst the country’s growing role as an exporter of vaccines against COVID-19.

“India could meet the spiking requirements of hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol and other relevant drugs across the world,” Jaishankar said. “In fact, we supplied 150 nations with medicines, 82 of them as grants by India. As our own production of masks, PPEs [personal protective equipment] and diagnostic kits grew, we made them available to other nations as well.” 

For some time, India has been referred to as the pharmacy of the world. The pandemic has only heightened the importance of this role, as the country – being home to the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India – assumes a central role in the global vaccination campaign against COVID-19. Its tactic of ‘vaccine diplomacy’ echoes its earlier practice of ‘medicine diplomacy’, which Jaishankar’s remarks underscore. According to Jaishankar, the Vaccine Maitri programme has led to deliveries of vaccines to 72 countries. 

Last year, the Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance highlighted India’s role in the global medicine supply and noted it accounts for one-fifth of the global supply of generic medicines. 

“Our reputation as the ‘pharmacy of the world’ has been reinforced,” Jaishankar said. “So indeed has the faith in ‘Make in India’. But more than the vaccines, our policies and conduct have emerged as a source of strength for the stressed and vulnerable nations of the world. They can see that there is at least one major nation that truly believes in making vaccines accessible and affordable to others in dire need.”

He also stated “when it came to Africa, we raised the level of our cooperation very substantially…our projects, training and presence has today spread widely across that continent. From the Caribbean to the Pacific Islands, the message has been clear that the Prime Minister of India not only has the willingness to engage them personally, but to back that up with concrete development programmes. It is this outlook of human-centric global cooperation that is the driving force of Vaccine Maitri.” 

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