Bangladesh on Thursday played down Indian concerns over a Chinese proposal to test vaccine on Bangladeshis, saying it is not yet final and is a part of worldwide search to help save lives in this South Asian country.
The Health Ministry has said earlier that the issue of vaccine test in Bangladesh is between the International Centre for Diarhhoeal Diseases and Research, Bangladesh (ICDDRB) and the Chinese firm, Sinovac Biotech Ltd, and once they reached an agreement then the other process will start to start the process.
“Finally, approval of the Foreign Ministry will be required,” said one official.
Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud bin Momen told newsnextbd.com that the testing matter is between the two institutions.
“We are searching for vaccines worldwide, especially which is affordable, easily accessible and we can have it as early as possible,” he said.
Told about Indian media rumblings on the issue as well as concerns for Bangladesh’s increasing closer ties with China, the foreign secretary played it down saying “approval for the Chinese vaccine test depended on technical matters which will be done by health experts and we are also in touch with the Oxford for the vaccine it is producing … India too is looking around for vaccines.”
Masud bin Momen said New Delhi and Dhaka are tested friends but the problem is our multifarious cooperation is overshadowed by such concerns. “Currently, Bangladesh and India are cooperating in over 100 areas.”
Gautom Lahiri, a well-known Indian journalist, told newsnextbd.com that New Delhi’s concerns over the Chinese vaccine tests in Bangladesh was due to the fact that the two countries had a very porous border which could infect its population.
Quoting sources in the Indian government, he added “that for New Delhi it was an unexpected move.”
The Pakistani premier Imran Khan’s telephone call to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and an earlier meeting in Dhaka by that country’s high commissioner with Foreign Minister Dr. AK Abdul Momen carried India’s concerns via its media.
Masud bin Momen brushed away such worries saying those were routine matters. Current ties between Dhaka and Islamabad are at its lowest.
Foreign Affairs experts too were surprised by Imran Khan’s telephone call as Dhaka continued to press for assets and liabilities stuck up in Pakistan since the independence of Bangladesh in 1971.
“Pakistan is possibly moving to mend ties but for Sheikh Hasina to accept any olive leaf is impossible without Islamabad’s apology for 1971 war crimes,” one expert told newsnextbd.com.
Another expert pointed out India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s comments recently and quoted in the Times of India that “If India has to grow, it has to shed its traditional caution, step out more, be more confident and articulate its interests.”
“If we are to grow by leveraging the international situation, we have to exploit the opportunities out there. Can’t do that by saying, ‘I’m going to stay away from it all, and when I find it convenient, I will step out’.
Either you’re in the game or you’re not in the game. The era of great caution, and greater dependence on multilateralism, is behind us. We have to step out more. We have to be more confident, we have to articulate our interests better. We need to take risks. Without taking risks, you can’t get ahead. Those are choices we have to make,” the Indian minister said.
Analysts said just like India, Bangladesh too has to make its choice keeping intact the “emotional and tested friendship” with India for its move forward independently.
Bangladesh is the former east Pakistan and broke away in 1971 with all out support from India, while China backed Pakistan.
In recent years, Dhaka-Beijing ties have warmed with Beijing financing some mega-projects in Bangladesh, which has made India uneasy.