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India to help Myanmar develop COVID-19 vaccine to combat the pandemic

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New Delhi: India will support Myanmar to develop vaccine to treat patients infected by Covid-19 and provide the neighbouring southeast Asian country with medicines and technology to combat the pandemic.

The country announced this during foreign office consultations with Myanmar held virtually on Thursday.

The development comes a few weeks after India sealed a deal with Bangladesh to develop anti-Covid vaccine through collaboration between top institutes.

“India is prepared to continue to extend all possible support to Myanmar in mitigating the health and economic impact of Covid-19,” foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said at Thursday’s meet. “I also wish to inform you that…with respect to the Covid vaccine, we stand committed to sharing our capabilities with our strategic partners, including Myanmar, in our collective best interest.”

Shringla held extensive discussions on ways to mitigate Covid-19 impact, including through vaccine development, supply of medicines, equipment and technology and capacity building, with his Burmese counterpart, officials told ET.

The two sides decided to expand security partnership through early conclusion of Extradition Treaty, Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty on Civil and Commercial Matters, and Agreement on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons to check cross-border insurgency. Myanmar had handed over 22 insurgents to India earlier this year.

Myanmar is considered India’s closest defence partner in the region. Indian military will send a team for deployment of meteorological squadrons to Myanmar this month.

India will also host Myanmar’s representative at the Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean region.

The country’s assistance to Myanmar is around $1.4 billion. The Sittwe Port that India built in Myanmar’s Rakhine state will be operationalised by the first quarter of 2021. The port is a key to Kaladan Multimodal transport project that will connect Kolkata with Mizoram.

“While India’s transit to its north-eastern region via Bangladesh is getting strengthened, the Kaladan multi-modal transit transport project, which is being implemented by India in Myanmar remains even more important,” said Bipul Chatterjee, executive director at CUTS International, a public policy body that focuses on connectivity initiatives among other issues. “That is for economic as well as strategic reasons, and particularly because of emerging geopolitical challenges in the Bay of Bengal region. Its importance in aiding eastern and northeast India’s connectivity with the Bay of Bengal cannot be overemphasised,” he said.

With respect to 69 bridges on the Trilateral Highway that connects India with Thailand through Myanmar, India will soon be moving forward with the tendering process, people in the know said.

Other Indo-Myanmar agreements such as Project Agreement for the establishment of modern integrated check post at Tamu, MoU for the construction of 50 basic schools, and project agreement for upgrading of agricultural mechanisation substation will be signed shortly.

India will also extend support for the construction of Bwaynu bridge in Myanmar.

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