Just as India’s pharmaceutical sector played a key role in meeting global demand for medicines during the pandemic, the companies of the two countries can work on developing an affordable and accessible vaccine for Covid-19, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said.
As India and the UK work on a comprehensive roadmap to strengthen their strategic partnership in the next decade, the development of Covid-19 vaccines is a crucial area with potential, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said on Tuesday.
Besides partnering India for improving and augmenting healthcare systems, the UK can take advantage of the country’s economic reforms and Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative to forge new supply and value chains, Shringla said in his address to the inaugural session of the annual UK conference organised by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).
“Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson are committed to further strengthen our strategic partnership in the next decade, and a comprehensive roadmap for this is being formulated. While we undertake this exercise…both our countries are in a unique position to forge a truly global partnership and should not miss this opportunity,” he said.
Referring to work being done by the Serum Institute of India with Oxford University and AstraZeneca on a Covid-19 vaccine, he described the development of vaccines as a “crucial area where there is potential for collaboration”.
Just as India’s pharmaceutical sector played a key role in meeting global demand for medicines during the pandemic, the companies of the two countries can work on developing an affordable and accessible vaccine for Covid-19, he added.
“The issue of secure and reliable supply chains has also gained increased salience in the current global context. It is important to design supply chains which have greater resilience to major disruptions like the current pandemic,” Shringla said.
By increasing its domestic capacities, India can contribute to making global supply chains more resilient by mitigating disruptions, he said. The Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative for self-reliance needs to be seen in this context as it is “not about seeking self-centred arrangements or economic isolationism”, he said.
“It aims to ensure India’s position as a key participant in global supply chains,” Shringla added.
The pandemic led to the acceleration of reforms with the launch of the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative, whereby India rolled out a stimulus package of $270 billion, or close to 10% of the GDP. This ensured that India received more than $20 billion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2020, he said.
“While the global FDI declined by 1% in 2019, FDI into India rose by 20% in the same period. Several global technology majors have announced major investments in India. Google is investing $10 billion, Facebook $5 billion and Mubadala, the UAE Sovereign Wealth Fund, $1.2 billion,” he said.
Pointing to the complementary nature of the Indian and British economies, Shringla said the UK is strong in research and innovation while India offers scale and affordability. “I would invite British companies to take advantage of the economic opportunities opened up by the reforms currently underway in India,” he added.
India emerged the second largest source of FDI for the UK in 2019. Around 850 Indian companies in the UK employ more than 100,000 people and bilateral trade touched £24 billion last year. The UK is the sixth largest investor in India, with investments totalling $28.21 billion till date.