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NEW DELHI : India on Friday requested Bangladesh to begin early efficacy trials of Bharat Biotech’s anti-Covid vaccine which has been favourably received by Dhaka.

The matter was raised during the India-Bangladesh Foreign Office Consultations held in New Delhi, Mint has learnt. The Indian delegation was headed by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla with his counterpart Masud Bin Momen leading the Bangladesh delegation.

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Bharat Biotech has developed Covaxin along with the New Delhi-based Indian Council of Medical Research. It is one of two vaccines that Indian drug regulators have given the green signal to for inoculating Indians against Covid-19. The second vaccine is Serum Institute of India manufactured Covishield which was co-developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.

Bharat Biotech has applied for permission with the Bangladesh authorities to start efficacy trials. Should the vaccine be green-lighted by Dhaka, it will be a boost for the Indian vaccine maker and a step up for India -- from being known as the world’s largest vaccine maker to burnishing its credentials as a vaccine developer.

During the talks on Friday, the two countries “held a comprehensive review of the progress achieved in the bilateral relationship, including in the areas of Covid-19 cooperation, trade, connectivity, development partnership, power, energy and water resources, regional and multilateral cooperation as well as border management and security and defence cooperation," a statement from the Indian foreign ministry said.

“Both sides noted with appreciation the close cooperation on covid-19 related issues, including India’s gift of 2 million doses of Covishield vaccines to Bangladesh in keeping with India’s Neighbourhood First Policy," the statement added.

Discussions also focussed on preparations for the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Dhaka in March and events relating to the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties were also discussed, it said. Both sides also agreed to hold the next Home Secretary Level Talks, Commerce Secretary Level Talks and the Secretary Level Meeting of Joint Rivers Commission before the March 2021 Summit.

Modi was to go to Dhaka last year in March to jointly inaugurate with Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina celebrations around the birth centenary of Hasina’s father Sheikh Mujibur Rehman who played a key role in that country’s freedom struggle. The visit last year, however, had to be put off due to the covid-19 pandemic. India and Bangladesh are also marking 50 years of establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.

“Underscoring the importance of the year 2021 in the context of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Bangladesh, the 50th year of bilateral diplomatic ties as well as the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, both sides decided to further strengthen the ongoing coordination to jointly commemorate these anniversaries," it said.

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