The Maldives and Bhutan today became the first two South Asian countries to receive consignments of Covid-19 vaccines from India under a grant assistance, reinforcing New Delhi's initiative for all its neighbours which Prime Minister Narendra Modi describes as "vaccine maitri" to cope with the debilitating pandemic.
"The first consignment takes off for Bhutan! India begins supply of Covid-19 vaccines to its neighbouring and key partner countries," External Affairs Ministry spokesman Anuraga Srivastava tweeted along with a picture of vaccines being loaded on a flight.
In a separate post on the micro-blogging site, he said "the consignment of Covid-19 vaccines takes off for Maldives!"
Bangladesh and Nepal will get their first supplies of vaccines from India tomorrow (Thursday) followed by Myanmar and Seychelles on Friday.
The subsequent consignments to all these countries will be under commercial deals, official sources said.
The first consignment to the Maldives will ferry one lakh doses of the jab and the same to Bhutan will supply 150,000 doses.
On the eve of the start of supply of the vaccines to its neighbours, Modi said in a Twitter post last night that "India is deeply honoured to be a long-trusted partner in meeting the healthcare needs of the global community. Supplies of Covid-19 vaccines to several countries will commence tomorrow, and more will follow in the days ahead. #VaccineMaitri"
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar tweeted "India fulfils commitment to give vaccines to humanity. Supplies to our neighbours will start on 20th January."