Amid oxygen shortage, India becomes a white knight for Nepal
India is the only country assisting Nepal with its oxygen needs amid the second wave of the pandemic
As Nepal is deep in the pandemic triggered crisis with people bearing the brunt of shortages in medical supplies, India has stepped in to offer its immediate neighbor much needed oxygen.
“India has supplied oxygen to Nepal. 2 tankers with 15 ton capacity each, have been doing rounds supplying liquid oxygen to Nepal. 3 tankers may get added soon,” Kathmandu-based Indian embassy’s First Secretary Naveen Kumar told India News Network in response to emailed questions.
“100% of Nepal's liquid oxygen needs are being met from India, on Indian tankers. One ton tanker can provide the equivalent of 100 oxygen cylinders. 15 ton=1500 cylinders,” Kumar added.
Last week, Indian ambassador to Nepal Vinay Kwatra had signalled that the country would send liquid oxygen to Nepal in the coming days.
"India will continue helping and assisting Nepal at the hour of crisis. 2.3 million doses of Covishield vaccine have already been delivered. Within another 8 to 10 days, tankers with liquid oxygen would arrive in Nepal," ambassador Kwatra had said.
Media reports in Nepal indicate that the situation of Covid-19 in the country is worsening day by day and death counts are increasing amid the shortage of medical supplies.
According to Nepal Times, the second wave of the pandemic has left the country in a devastating situation with the lack of medical facilities including hospital beds and oxygen. Entire families are getting infected and succumbing to Covid-19.
The country has 5,13,241 confirmed cases; out of them 1,15,547 are active cases and 6346 people have succumbed to death due to Covid-19.
While the Nepal government has been doing its part to bring the situation under control, India has also been fulfilling its responsibility as a neighbor since the first wave of the pandemic has hit Nepal.
“India has stood together and continuously assisted Nepal in its fight against Covid-19 pandemic. Recently, India has provided a total of 2.48 million doses of made-in-India Covid-19 vaccine to Nepal. Of this, 01 million doses were provided to Nepal as a gift from India, 01 million doses were purchased by Govt of Nepal, 3.48 lakhs doses were provided through COVAX initiative of the United Nations, and 01 lakh doses were gifted by the Indian Army to the Nepali Army,” the First Secretary added.
Meanwhile, according to media reports and first-hand experiences of Nepali citizens, there is a shortage of Made-in-India Covishield vaccine in Nepal. In such a scenario, the Himalayan nation has sought global help.
This comes as India has also been fighting the second wave of the pandemic and has put its domestic needs on priority amid shortage of vaccines in the country. However, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer has set an ambitious target of manufacturing over 200 billion doses of vaccines till the end of the year beginning from August.
If the target will be achieved in time, India will be able to resume the supply to its global partners including Nepal. The Government of India has already started the planning to improve infrastructure and facilities to achieve the vaccine manufacturing target in the country.
Apart from the vaccines, India has assisted Nepal with medicines, RT-PCR kits, ICU beds, ambulances, and other medical equipment. The country has stood with its close neighbor during the tough times.
India and Nepal share open borders and a special bond of friendship that has been strengthened over the years with regular bilateral visits from both sides. The pandemic has only led to the further strengthening of these close bilateral relations.
Further, the ties between both sides are cemented with the growing trade. Nepal is one of the largest trade partners of India even amid the time of the pandemic.
On the matter of trade and economy between both sides, Kumar said, “As per statistics published by Nepal Customs indicate that during the first nine months of Nepali Fiscal year 2077-78BS, Nepal’s exports to India saw an unprecedented 23.5% increase over the same period last year. This is remarkable considering that the trade flows in the rest of the world actually dipped in this period, by almost 5%. Moreover, much of the rise in Nepal’s exports to India was contributed by agricultural and food products, thus making Nepal’s farmers a direct beneficiary of such trade.”
Both sides have also been close partners when it comes to infrastructural development. There have been new developments in Nepal with the financial assistance of India and there have been some seeds sown in the past that are now reaping benefits amid the pandemic.
One such project is the Motihari-Amlekhgunj pipeline project that was jointly inaugurated by both sides in 2019. Updating on the same, Kumar said, “Within a short span of being made operational, the iconic Motihari-Amlekhgunj pipeline saved Nepal Oil Corporation nearly Rs. 147 million a month during the pandemic period. The pipeline created a record by supplying 100 million liters of diesel to Nepal in a single month in December 2020.”
Everything said, India and Nepal have proved to be each other’s true companions in times of need and have maintained that they will continue to do so.