NEW DELHI: Bhutan and Maldives on Wednesday became the first two countries to receive COVID-19 vaccines sent by India under grants assistance in sync with its 'neighbourhood first' policy.
India sent 150,000 doses of Covishield vaccines, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), to Bhutan, while 100,000 doses reached the Maldives.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar shared on Twitter photos of the consignments reaching the two countries.
Bhutanese Foreign Minister Tandi Dorji thanked India for the "generous gift".
"Our profound gratitude to the GoI for the generous gift of 150,000 doses of Covishield vaccines that Bhutan received today. Deeply grateful to GoI for its abiding friendship and unconditional support to Bhutan's fight against the COVID-19 pandemic," he said on Twitter.
An AN-32 transport aircraft of the Indian Air Force transported the vaccines to Bhutan.
In a tweet, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the vaccines.
"A short while ago, a flight from India with 100,000 doses of the CoviShield vaccine arrived in the Maldives, renewing our hopes for a resolution to the Covid 19 crisis soon. Our heartfelt thanks to PM @narendramodi," he said.
In a major announcement, India on Tuesday said it will send COVID-19 vaccines under grant assistance to Bhutan, Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and Seychelles from Wednesday and supplies to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius will commence after confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances.
"Indian vaccines reach Maldives, reflects our special friendship," Jaishankar tweeted.
India is one of the world's biggest drugmakers, and an increasing number of countries have already approached it for procuring coronavirus vaccines.
On Tuesday, the Ministry of External Affairs said India will supply COVID-19 vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner keeping in view the domestic requirements.
India has already rolled out a massive coronavirus vaccination drive under which two vaccines, Covishield and Covaxin, are being administered to frontline health workers across the country.
While Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covishield is being manufactured by the Serum Institute, and the Covaxin is being produced by Bharat Biotech.
The MEA said it will be ensured that domestic manufacturers will have adequate stocks to meet domestic requirements while supplying abroad.
India had earlier supplied hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir, and paracetamol tablets, as well as diagnostic kits, ventilators, masks, gloves and other medical supplies to a large number of countries to help them deal with the pandemic.(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)