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NEW DELHI : An Indian Air Force IL-76 cargo aircraft that ferried a consignment of medicines to Sri Lanka also flew in the new Indian high commissioner designate to the country, Gopal Baglay.

“A special flight brought the medicines to #lka along with High Commissioner-Designate HE Gopal Baglay. He will observe stipulated health protocol. #India," said a Twitter post from the official handle of the Indian high commission in Sri Lanka said.

The closure of borders and air space by countries across the world that resulted in the grounding of flights including between India and Sri Lanka had meant that Baglay could not take up his post as the new high commissioner to Sri Lanka, despite him being named the Indian envoy to Colombo in February.

News reports from Colombo noted that the medicine consignment from India had come in during the auspicious Vesak week commemorating the birth, enlightenment and the passing away of Lord Buddha. A majority of Sri Lankans are Buddhists. The 12.5 tonne consignment was the fourth to Sri Lanka in recent weeks. It follows a meeting of South Asian heads of government held at the instance of prime minister Narendra Modi in March. All eight countries in the region – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives besides India -- had contributed to a covid fund to help countries in the region meet the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Meanwhile, in a separate statement, the Indian foreign ministry said India was dispatching consignments of medicines to 25 countries in Africa to meet the challenge posed by the covid-19 pandemic.

“This is in keeping with India’s traditionally strong bonds of friendship and solidarity with Africa, which has reached new heights in the last few years," the statement said.

The consignments include hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol and other drugs “which are immediately required to fight the pandemic. These medicines are expected to complement the national efforts of the various countries in Africa to combat the pandemic," the statement said.

Prime minister Modi had spoken to South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is also the current chair of the African Union, last month during which he “conveyed India’s full support for the joint African effort against the virus."

Many African countries were also taking part in an online workshop for healthcare workers titled: "covid-19 Pandemic : Prevention and Management Guidelines for healthcare professional," organised by Indian foreign ministry and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Raipur, the statement added.

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