Indian envoy to Mongolia Ambassador M P Singh speaking via video conference Photograph:( WION Web Team )
'We offered to Mongolia national centre for communicable diseases which is the main centre for dealing with preparedness and management of this pandemic,' said MP Singh.
The Mongolian health ministry has requested for Remdesivir from Indian companies, India's envoy to Mongolia M P Singh has said. Remdesivir though still experimental holds promise in treatment for COVID.
Speaking exclusively to our Principal Diplomatic Correspondent Sidhant Sibal from Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, Ambassador M P Singh while talking about current collaboration during the pandemic said, "best in our relationship with Mongolia is yet to come."
India is also reaching out to Mongolia at the current times of COVID crisis by sending consignments of Paracetamol and HCQ to the country and offering training to its officials in COVID management.
WION: How is India and Mongolia cooperating with each other to deal with the COVID pandemic?
M P Singh: I can say that Mongolia is relatively less impacted by the COVID pandemic, the reason being they acted quite early, as early as last week of January, even before the first case broke out. So comparatively, situation here is quite better than other countries in the region and worldwide. Yes, we have received a request from Mongolia. As a matter of fact, as we speak, a consignment of Paracetamol and HCQ is on its way via Korea into Mongolia.
In addition, we offered to Mongolia national centre for communicable diseases which is the main centre for dealing with preparedness and management of this pandemic, we have offered them online courses which was offered by PGI Chandigarh and two of the officials have already undergone that training and in addition to this, there is request already made by the ministry of health to one or two Indian companies for supply of Remdesivir which is being used for the treatment of COVID pandemic.
These are some of the initiatives done, we are in regular touch with the Mongolian health ministry and national centre of Health. I personally visited that, it is the only day before we had flown in 158 Mongolian nationals from India and flown out some people from here. We are cooperating well at all levels wherever we could and with Mongolia, as you rightly said, we have a strategic partnership and it is one of the 5 countries with which Mongolia has partnership and India has a partnership with Mongolia which is strategic in nature announced during the visit of PM Modi which brought in paradigm shift into our relationship.
WION: How many Indians are stranded in Mongolia and are there any plans to repatriate them?
M P Singh: As compared to other countries, Mongolia has a small size of the Indian diaspora. They number around 200. Mostly they are professionals scattered all around. Yes, we have had requests for repatriation of Indian nationals. So far, we have repatriated five Indians about a month back and 10 Indians were evacuated in a special relief flight which was operated by Mongolian airlines to bring back own citizens. So, we have taken about 15 Indian nationals out of the country, and two more requests are pending and they are procedural in nature and once we complete will try and see how we assist those two people also.
WION: Life for Indian diplomats during COVID times in Mongolia and is it impacting interaction with Indians?
M P Singh: As I said, Mongolia has been less impacted, so life here has not been like life in India or the lockdown. We had a very small lockdown in early January and thereafter life has been relatively normal. Yes, we are using all virtual tools in our interaction. There is no ban per se on movement of Indian diplomats. Even local people can move around.
Only thing, we have to follow some norms, like wearing a mask which is mandatory. Keeping some distance and all big events are cancelled but we are able to meet freely with any of the local dignitaries including the ministers. We have been attending all of the briefings. We have certain norms--10 to 20 people in the room at a certain distance. So we are normal in other sense of the word, but doing much more business via online, through virtual mode rather than in person.
The Indian community is small, 200+, what we do is we remain in touch with them and we have formed a WhatsApp group in which there are about 80+ members. Separately, we post regular updates from the Mongolian government and the Indian government on the travel restrictions and the guidelines that need to be followed. We have also called few online sessions with representatives of Indian associations, and in-person I have met the office bearers of the only Indian association in Mongolia--The India Club. So all of these, I would say, technological tools are helping us keep the connect intact, and we are sharing updates. We remain in touch with each other.
WION: How do you see long term cooperation with Mongolia?
M P Singh: I will put you question in 2 brackets, pre-COVID and post COVID.
India is among the 5 countries with which Mongolia has a strategic partnership, we were the 4th country and the US the 5th. From 2015, there has been a paradigm shift in our relationship with Mongolia in all walks of lives, all aspects of the relationship. The fact that India's single largest project of assistance, outside immediate neighbourhood of 1.236 billion dollars has been made to Mongolia for construction of Mongol refinery. The first-ever Mongol refinery here capable of refining 1.5 million metric tonnes of crude speaks volume of our relationship.
We are helping Mongolia is current times, in terms of providing special assistance for providing them HCQ, Paracetamol and request pending from Mongolian health ministry to some of our companies for supply of Remdesivir. This is going on and going on I would see, this cooperation going to be expanded further for 2 reasons. One is the oil refinery, it is 1.236 billion dollars, so you can imagine the volume and its impact in every single economic activity in this country. Recently the three consignments that have come in have made them aware of India's strength in the Pharma sector. Many now call us as Pharmacy of the world. This sector is certainly going to grow.
I am glad to share news, just a few months ago acknowledging this potential, centre called India Mongolia health cooperation centre that has come up which is looking into the ways and means of our cooperation. So, the areas of cooperation will not only focus on pharma, health care medicine but will go beyond. These challenging time has provided us not only opportunity and PM has given self-reliant or atamnirbhar bharat, which is going to provide a greater framework for expanding India's cooperation into this region and especially the part of act east policy into it, so yes I see us cooperating well with Mongolia. But the best in our relationship with Mongolia is yet to come.