(Reuters) – China has decided to provide the first batch of COVID-19 vaccine aid for the Himalayan nation of Nepal, state news agency Xinhua reported, citing comments by Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Friday.
Wang made the remarks during a telephone conversation with Nepali Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, the agency reported.
With a population of more than 30 million, Nepal’s tally of infections stands at 271,707, with 2,035 deaths. (tmsnrt.rs/3pTUNdU)
Late in January, Nepal launched its largest immunization campaign with its first coronavirus vaccinations for medical workers, following a gift of one million doses from giant neighbour India.
India said in January it would give millions of vaccine doses to its South Asian neighbours, drawing their praise in what could prove a pushback against China’s activities in the region.
In recent years the mainly Hindu nation wedged between China and India has become a playground for competition over diplomatic and strategic influence between the Asian giants.
For years, India has struggled to match the pace of Chinese investment in Nepal and the Indian Ocean countries of the Maldives and Sri Lanka, where China is building ports, roads and power stations in its Belt and Road Initiative.
But the demand for vaccines in these countries, desperate to revive their tourism-dependent economies, has offered Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government a way to claw back ground, diplomats have said.