ISLAMABAD: As the pandemic threatens Pakistan with the third phase, the government has so far received COVID-19 vaccine only from China. It has not procured yet anything from the open market and is now awaiting more vaccines from the COVAX Facility, but it has not made any bilateral agreement with India in this regard.
Recently, Indian media reports referred to Pakistan receiving vaccines directly from India while some senior officials here had also mentioned this. However, when the matter was taken up with the Foreign Office during the weekly media briefing, the spokesman made it clear that there was no bilateral procurement agreement with India.
“Regarding the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine, Pakistan has not entered into any bilateral procurement agreement for COVID-19 vaccine from India. GAVI, the international vaccine alliance, has offered provision of vaccine doses to several countries, including Pakistan, under its COVAX Facility,” he clarified.
The procurement and supply mechanism of the vaccine doses are undertaken by GAVI and not the recipient countries. The spokesman said he did not have the exact details of the doses of the vaccine which were coming in and it was better for the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination to give the figures.
Meanwhile, Pakistan without naming India says it is ready to convene a SAARC summit in Islamabad, hoping that the artificial hurdles created to its way by a member state will be removed and the process will be allowed to move forward.
The spokesman says Pakistan is not averse to talks with India. “Pakistan has never shied away from talks and has always called for peaceful resolution of all outstanding disputes, including the internationally recognized dispute of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
After the ceasefire agreement between the two countries, reports have been circulating, saying the possibility of holding a SAARC summit is a strong possibility. Pakistan, he said, is a founding member of SAARC and considers it an important important platform for regional cooperation.
“Pakistan remains committed to the principles and charter of SAARC. We will continue working with the member states to build convergences and take forward the SAARC process for strengthening regional cooperation to achieve prosperity in the region”, he added.
The spokesman was hesitant to respond to questions regarding Pakistan’s procurement of helicopters from Turkey, which was blocked by the United States.
“Regarding the helicopter deal, this matter pertains to the Ministry of Defence,” he said. When asked why the US turned a blind eye when it came to India acquiring arms, the spokesman responded: “Regarding India’s acquisition of arms, we have repeatedly said that India continues to amass military capabilities and arms beyond its genuine security requirement, which is adversely affecting strategic stability, peace and security in the region.”
About Afghanistan, the spokesman said Pakistan welcomed the US efforts to re-energize the peace process and expedite the final political settlement. Further details regarding the proposed meeting on Afghanistan under the UN will be shared once the official invitation is received.
The spokesman was asked to comment on US inclusion of India in the peace process. “As for India’s inclusion in the Afghan peace process, Pakistan supports regional approaches to solving the conflict in Afghanistan. At the same time, we need to remain cognizant of the role of spoilers. Unfortunately, India has not been a constructive partner for peace in Afghanistan.” He said that it was important to guard against the detrimental role of ‘spoilers’, both within and outside Afghanistan, who do not wish to see return of peace to the region.