Home Commentaries & Articles India’s Medical Diplomacy in Central Asia amid COVID-19

India’s Medical Diplomacy in Central Asia amid COVID-19

India’s Medical

India’s Medical

Appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December 2019, the novel coronavirus has spread globally and is reported worldwide daily. Managing the pandemic has become a significant challenge for countries across the world. Consequentially, the virus has undermined global public health systems and upset the global economy. India,while effectively fighting the spread of the virus, is helping many countries in the world to counter this pandemic. India extended its significant humanitarian outreach, especially at a time when it already has become the fourth most affected countries facing the corona pandemic. India sent medical supplies including Paracetamol and HydroxyChloroquine (HCQS) tablets to more than 120 countries, including the US and several other western countries.[1]

India and Central Asia share historical and cultural linkages. Following the disintegration of the Soviet Union, India was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with the post-Soviet Central Asian states. Kazakhstan is the most significant trade and economic partner of India in the region followed by Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistanand Kyrgyzstan, respectively. The bilateral relations have not reached their full potential due to the lack of direct connectivity between India and Central Asia. Yet, India is trying hard to bridge this gap by investing in multiple connectivity projects,for example,the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) and Chabahar Port in Iran. PM Modi’s visit to five Central Asian republics in 2015 and India’s accession to Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) as a full member state in 2017 has further given impetus to India’s strategic engagement with the region. India’s recent efforts to help Central Asian countries fight the coronavirus by providing humanitarian assistance will be a strategic lead in the long term.

Three of five CARs, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, share their direct borders with China, and the outbreak of this deadly disease would have been greatly affected by those republics.[2]In Central Asia, Kazakhstan was the first country to register a case of COVID-19 on March 13. Subsequently, on March 15, Uzbekistan registered its first official case of COVID-19 infection, while Kyrgyzstan registered its first case on March 18.After months of denial, Tajikistan admitted to having 15 COVID-19 infected patients on April 30. According to the Turkmenadministration, the country has not yet reported any cases of coronavirus.

In Central Asia, when COVID-19 positive cases came into light in the mid of March, it compelled the governments of these republics to undertake preventive actions against its spread. Central Asian countries were not fully equipped to fight the spread of the virus, but timely measures and strict guidelines have resulted in a less alarming situation in the region. However, lockdown and reverse migration havea deep impact on Central Asian economies. Up till now, more than 30,000 cases have been registered in these countries.[3]

Amidst the pandemic, India has become the leading and reliable global supplier of medicines and related items. Still, it continues to play this constructive role along with catering the needs of its 1.3 billion populations. The supplies from India move in the form of either humanitarian assistance or commercial terms. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, India has also started manufacturing masks and personal protection equipment (PPE) kits. India is now the second-largest PPE kits producer in the world. India was never into the making of medical textiles, including PPE kits, and it was entirely owned by China. The spread of COVID-19 caused a significant disruption to China, which was the largest producer of PPE kits and has allowed India to become a manufacturer and supplier of these items.[4]

Kazakhstan was the first to receive medical supplies and humanitarian aid from India. On April 13, New Delhi sent medical supplies to Kazakhstan. While expressing his appreciation to PM Modi for extending help to Kazakhstan’s fight against coronavirus, Kazakh QasymJomartToqayev said, that this gesture symbolises a high mark of friendship and solidarity between the two countries.[5] Uzbekistan has also received India’s medical aid to increment its fight against COVID-19.

Tajikistan is an extended neighbour and a strategic partner of India. India has sent humanitarian aid to the country in the form of medicines and specialised equipments. India has also provided Hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol tablets as humanitarian aid.A special flight, Air India Ai-1983/84, organised by the Government of India, delivered 4.6 tons of medicines on the eve of May 28 in Dushanbe to support Tajikistan in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.[6] In return, the charter flight brought back stranded Indian citizens in Tajikistan.

Under Its flagship initiative, ‘Vande Bharat’ to bring back stranded Indian citizens, Government of India also brought back thousand of Indian citizens from Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. India’s helping gesture in this challenging time will give a long-lasting boost to India’s strategic and foreign policy objectives not only in Central Asian region but across the globe.


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[1]Anil Trigunayat, India’s Medicine Diplomacy, VIF, 9 June      https://www.vifindia.org/article/2020/june/09/india-s-medicine-diplomacy

[2]Pravesh Kumar Gupta, CVID-19 in Central Asia:  Responses and Resolutions, https://www.vifindia.org/article/2020/april/11/covid-19-in-central-asia-responses-and-resolutions

[3] Ibid.

[4] COVID-19: How India Became A PPE Kit Manufacturing Hub, Boomlive, June 8, 2020.


[5] ‘High mark of friendship’: Kazakh President thanks India for medical supplies to combat COVID-19, ANI News, April 9, 2020. https://www.aninews.in/news/world/asia/high-mark-of-friendship-kazakh-president-thanks-india-for-medical-supplies-to-combat-covid-1920200419010247/

[6] India sent humanitarian aid to Tajikistan, Avestanews, Tajikistan,May29, 2020. http://avesta.tj/2020/05/29/indiya-napravila-v-tadzhikistan-gumanitarnuyu-pomoshh-video/