Ties between India and South Africa appear to have been strengthened after President Cyril Ramaphosa phoned Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday afternoon to thank him personally for making the Covid-19 vaccine available.
The phone call comes after South Africa’s first batch of vaccines arrived from the Serum Institute of India on Monday, and after an outcry in some quarters about Ramaphosa failing to thank the Indian government in his address to the nation that same evening – instead praising the team of Cuban doctors contracted to help in treating patients with the disease.
Ramaphosa’s office, in a statement, said he “applauded the government and people of India for its gift to the world in the form of vaccines and scientific knowledge” and “conveyed the profound gratitude expressed by the people of South Africa to India for its solidarity with South Africa in fighting the pandemic”.
There was concern between the two leaders that the virus was mutating constantly, which presents a challenge internationally in fighting the pandemic.
Modi also indicated that India would be developing “one or two more vaccines” – and that it would continue to support countries in Africa “with a special package of vaccines”.
In a tweet, Modi said: “India’s capacity to produce medicines and vaccines is supporting the efforts of many nations, including our friends in Africa.”
Spoke to President @CyrilRamaphosa about the measures India and South Africa are taking to fight the COVID-19 pandemic domestically and internationally. India’s capacity to produce medicines and vaccines is supporting the efforts of many nations, including our friends in Africa.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) February 4, 2021
During the phone call, India also committed to providing the Covax facility – a joint initiative between the World Health Organisation and The Vaccine Alliance – with 13 million doses by the end of February.
They also noted the “growing support internationally” for the proposal the two countries submitted to the World Trade Organisation’s Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Council for a temporary waiver of certain TRIPS obligations to make vaccines more affordable and enable local production.
I spoke to the Prime Minister of India, His Excellency @NarendraModi this afternoon following the arrival of the first batch of #COVID19 vaccines from on Monday. I applauded the Government & people of India for its gift to the world in the form of vaccines & scientific knowledge. pic.twitter.com/Mar65brN9i
— Cyril Ramaphosa ???????? #StaySafe (@CyrilRamaphosa) February 4, 2021
According to the statement, the two leaders “reflected on the strong bilateral relations between South Africa and India, highlighting the importance of the strategic partnership that exists between South Africa and India, and reiterating, specifically, the importance of economic cooperation to address the devastating impact the pandemic had on the global economy”.
South Africa also congratulated India on assuming a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Government sources said India’s willingness to make the vaccine available, despite Modi’s reported preference to roll it out to his country’s citizens first, was in exchange for closer ties with South Africa.
India is said to be keen to revive IBSA, a grouping of countries which includes India, Brazil and South Africa, after the activities of the Brics grouping, which also includes Russia and China, appeared to have brought an end to the IBSA summits.