Nepal has indicated that it will procure vaccines from a trusted source

Nepal has decided to buy Covid-19 vaccines from India, giving China, which looked at the Himalaya nation as a potential market for its vaccines, a short shrift--all this at the time when Beijing desperately wants the world to trust its capability in the pharmaceutical sector.

“Nepal is looking to procure vaccines to inoculate its millions of people and India is the preferred source,” Nepal’s Minister for Health and Population Hridayesh Tripathi was quoted by The Kathmandu Post as saying. Hints coming from Nepal suggest that Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali who is likely to visit India soon for the Joint Commission meeting with S Jaishankar will take up the supply of Covid-19 vaccine during the talks.

China lobbied hard with the Nepal government for the Chinese produced Covid-19 vaccine. Beijing felt that Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli who is well known for his leanings towards China, would dance at its bidding and would unhesitatingly buy its vaccines.

But the incumbent government of the Himalayan country preferred to procure vaccines from a trusted source than China, which is itself importing millions of doses of vaccines from Germany.

According to Shanghai-based Fosun Pharmaceutical Group, order has been placed for the supply of 100 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine from Germany’s BioNtech. Following this development, several ASEAN countries became skeptical of the efficacy of China’s home-grown vaccines and they refused to buy it, despite persuasion by Beijing.

In China, state-run Sinopharm and Sinovac are engaged in developing Covid-19 vaccines. Experts said on account of lack of trust, transparency and method adopted to develop it, many countries fear from asking their citizens to get vaccinated by the Chinese vaccines.

Similar situation appears to be there with the K P Sharma Oli-led Nepal government. Despite being close to Beijing on the ideological level, Oli doesn’t want to surrender his country’s interest to China.

His government feels Indian vaccines from the Serum Institute or Bharat Biotech will be cost effective, trustworthy and easily accessible in comparison to China’s Sinopharm or Sinovac developed vaccine. It is seen as the Nepal government’s way to show a mirror to China when needs arise.

Last year, at the end of November, when Chinese Defence Minister General Wei Fenghe came calling to the Himalayan country, he wanted to have a delegation-level meeting with K P Sharma Oli as the Nepal Prime Minister also holds defence portfolio. The Nepal Prime Minister, who is a strict follower of protocol, asked the visiting Chinese Defence Minister to hold such a meeting with Nepal’s Army Chief Purna Chandra Thapa instead. He had to do it and also had to later call on the Prime Minister Oli as a courtesy.

Yet Beijing will never forget how its political delegation in the Himalayan country had to return empty handed as neither Prime Minister Oli nor former Nepal Prime Minister Prachanda addressed China’s concern on the unification of the Nepal Communist Party.

This has happened despite Beijing using all means to keep the Himalayan country’s Communist leaders in good humour. For China, it is a wake-up call as a tiny country too has begun to veer out of its political and economic influences.