Healthcare constitutes one of the most important and high-priority areas of bilateral partnership between India and its neighbours; over the years, it has made valuable contributions to strengthening the health sector in Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives, and Bangladesh.
While giving impetus to India’s age-old development partnership in the region, New Delhi has tried to ensure that its neighbouring South Asian countries get proper medical support so that they can take care of health-related problems of their citizens.
India shares a warm and special relationship with the people of Afghanistan and in view of this, it has never shied away from providing humanitarian aid to the country. It has supplied tons of medical assistance, which included life saving medicines, anti-TB medicines, millions of doses of Covid vaccine.
In 1966, India built a children’s hospital, which was later named Indira Gandhi Hospital for Child Health (IGHCH). It is the largest paediatric hospital in Afghanistan, treating over 300,000 children annually.
In 2005, India and Afghanistan signed an agreement on cooperation in the field of healthcare and medical sciences. Both countries agreed to cooperate on eight sectors: Family welfare, public health and nutrition, communicable diseases, medical research, indigenous system of medicine, medical equipment and pharmaceutical products, hospital management, nursing, and midwifery. India has also provided ambulances and funded construction of several health centres in Afghanistan.
In March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his two-day visit to Bhutan, inaugurated India funded 150-bedded Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck Mother and Child hospital in Thimphu. The hospital has been constructed under the 12th Five Year Plan of Bhutan. It has been built in two-phases.
The hospital, constructed in the first phase and at the cost of Rs 22 crore, has been operational since 2019; the construction of the second phase was taken up in 2019 and was completed in March 2024. The total cost involved in the construction of the hospital in the second phase was Rs 119 crores and it is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities for paediatrics, gynaecology and obstetrics, anaesthesiology, operation theatre, neonatal intensive care, and paediatric intensive care.
In healthcare, India has missed no opportunity to extend its support to the Himalayan nation. It has been regularly supplying medical equipment and medicines to Bhutan. Through capacity building and training programmes, it has always tried to share best medical practices and methods for the management and control of diseases with medical practitioners of the Himalayan nation.
Under the 12th Five Year Plan of Bhutan, India has provided development assistance to the tune of Rs4.09 billion for different health projects to the country. Besides, Mother and Child Hospital which was inaugurated by Prime Minister last month, India-funded health projects in Bhutan include the construction of Deothang Hospital, Naganglam Hospital, procurement of medical equipment for Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital and support to the Vector Borne Disease Control Programme.
When Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, India, under its “Vaccine Maitri” initiative, provided Bhutan more than 5 lakh doses of Covid vaccine. India also provided Thimphu with PPE kits, testing kits and other medical support during the pandemic.

With Bangladesh, India’s bilateral engagement in the field of health sector witnessed a marked robustness during Covid-19 pandemic.  
India donated Covid-19 test kits, surgical masks, caps, sterile surgical gloves, and Hydroxychloroquine medicine tablets to Bangladesh as part of its emergency medical assistance to the neighbouring country during the early phase of Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. India also conducted various online training modules to train the health professionals of Bangladesh on treatment and care of Covid patients.
India gifted mobile oxygen plants and several tons of necessary medical supplies including oxygen nasal cannula, oxygen face mask, oxygen flow meter, non-rebreather mask, pulse oximeter, high flow nasal cannula, medical oxygen cylinder and infrared thermometer in August 2021.
It also handed over 109 Life Support Ambulances to Bangladesh when it was struggling with the deadly pandemic. India also provided vaccine to Dhaka. In the first phase, it handed over 3.3 million doses of Covishield vaccine and in the second phase, more than 9 million doses of Covishield vaccine were provided to Bangladesh.
The Government of Bangladesh, BEXIMCO Pharmaceuticals Limited of Bangladesh and the Serum Institute of India (SII) signed a trilateral MOU to commercially procure 30 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from the Serum Institute of India.
Earlier, during his visit to Bangladesh in April 2017, Prime Minister Modi announced a special medical scheme under which 100 Muktijoddhas will be provided medical treatment in Indian hospitals every year.
India has played a significant role for the development of the health sector of Maldives. Indira Gandhi Memorial Hospital, the largest public healthcare facility in Maldives, is the most visible and important contribution in the health sector to the archipelagic country by India.
Over the years, it has contributed immensely to the development of the health sector of the island nation---most notably in developing human resources, infrastructure, and expertise.
In 2019, the two countries signed Memorandum of Understanding in the field of health and included, exchange and training of medical doctors, officials, other health professionals and experts; medical and health research development; regulation of medicines and medical products; cooperation in handling of communicable and non-communicable diseases, e-health, and telemedicine.
In March 2022, EAM S Jaishankar along with then Foreign Minister of the archipelagic country, Abdullah Shahid inaugurated a Drug Detoxification and Rehabilitation Centre in Addu City. The Centre was funded jointly by India and Maldives. India has always helped Maldives in sailing through its crisis.
In 2020, when Covid-19 pandemic was ravaging the world and the archipelagic nation found itself deep in crisis, India not only shipped essential medicines, but also immediately rushed a medical team, comprising pomologists, anaesthetists, physicians, and lab technicians. India also evacuated Maldivian nationals from Wuhan in China. It also evacuated nine Maldivian nationals from Wuhan. To mitigate the deadly effect of Covid-19, India also supplied more than 5 lakh doses of vaccine in 2021.
India, which funded the development of Nepal’s premier medical institution, B P Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan and Emergency in the 1990s and Trauma Centre at Bir Hospital in Kathmandu in the 2000s, shares robust bilateral engagement with the Himalayan nation in the area of health since 1959 when it provided support to the country in building Paropakar Maternity and Child Welfare Centre in Kathmandu.
In February this year, when External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar undertook a two-day visit to Nepal, New Delhi and Kathmandu signed MoUs for undertaking three High Impact Community Development projects in the Himalayan nation. Of these three projects, one belonged to health which envisaged construction of a health post building in Khamlalung in Terhathum district of Nepal. Over the years, India has constructed several health posts and hospitals across the Himalayan country.
Since 1994, India has also gifted more than 1,000 ambulances to health centres and hospitals across Nepal. The recent ones were gifted on April 14, 2024 when 35 ambulances were gifted to various organisations working in the health sector.
In November 2023 when a major earthquake hit the Himalayan nation, killing more than 150 people there, India as the first responder, transported essential medical supplies and other relief materials to the country.
In fact, India’s support to Nepal has never been flippant and uneven, rather it has always stood by the country at the time of its needs. This has been seen during the Covid-19 pandemic. It supplied more than 23 tons of medicines and medical equipment to Nepal on grant basis during the first wave of Covid-19 pandemic.
More than 9 million doses of vaccine were provided to the Himalayan nation by India during the Covid-19 pandemic. Besides, a Medical Oxygen Plant based on India’s indigenous technology was installed at B.P. Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan in August 2021. This plant has a capacity to serve 200 patients simultaneously
Sri Lanka
India’s support to Sri Lanka in the health sector has witnessed a sustained growth over the years. While India helped the island nation in launching the country-wide 1990 Emergency Ambulance Service—for which New Delhi provided close to 300 ambulances at the cost of $22.5 million, it also played a key role in funding major hospitals and health centres in the island nation.
In May 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during his visit to Sri Lanka, inaugurated an India-funded 150-bed hospital in Dickoya, which lies in the central province of the island nation. Earlier in 2015, India funded the construction of a 200-bed hospital in Sri Lanka’s northern district of Vavuniya.
India has been providing assistance on priority basis to Sri Lanka in improving its health sector. It had supplied high valued critical medical equipment for the Jaffna Teaching Hospital in January 2011 and district hospitals at Kilinochchi and Mullaitivu in January 2012. It also gifted ‘Bhabatron’ Telecobalt Radiotherapy Machine for the Hambantota-based General Hospital.
When Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, India used special aircraft to transport more than 25 tons of medicines to Sri Lanka in May 2020. In January 2021, India gifted 5,00,000 doses of Covishield to the island nation. After the country fell into a deep crisis in 2022, New Delhi again came to its rescue.
More than 26 tons of drugs and other medical supplies were provided by India to Sri Lanka’s Peradeniya University Hospital, Jaffna Teaching Hospital, Hambantota General Hospital to meet acute shortage of medicines after the island nation slid into a deep economic crisis in February 2022. It had also gifted 1 lakh Rapid Antigen Test kits to the island nation in February 2022.
India has a people-centred approach to diplomacy and as a result, it has taken strides in providing its neighbours all possible help that they need to meet their day today obligations, including in the area of health.