First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee and President of Cuba Miguel Díaz Canel welcomes Vietnamese President Nguyễn Xuân Phuc (right). VNA/VNS Photo Thống Nhất
Prof. Pankaj Jha*
Following the latest outbreak of the Corona pandemic in Việt Nam, the government has decided to procure 10 million doses of Abdala vaccines from Cuba. Abdala vaccine is one of the two vaccines produced locally in Cuba. The situation in Việt Nam is compelling because the country has seen more than 16,637 deaths because of the Delta warrant outbreak in the country since April of this year. The casualty rate is still low in terms of global average.
The severity of the crisis has been so profound that before the visit of Việt Nam’s president to Havana an order of 10 million vaccine doses of Cuba’s vaccine has already been placed. Abdala vaccine is the eighth vaccine approved for inoculating Vietnamese adult population.
During the visit of President Nguyễn Xuân Phúc (September 18-20) and his meeting with President of Cuba Miguel Diaz Canel issues of common interest were discussed at length. The two countries have been ideal logically aligned and there has been comprehensive cooperation between the two sides' parties. In terms of bilateral corporation the two countries have been working with regard to trading in consumer goods, manufacturing, renewable energy and aquatic products. Cuba has appreciated Việt Nam’s Đổi Mới reforms and has expressed interest in drawing lessons from the initiative.
In fact the two countries have been adverse to the US capitalist approach in the past, and have been collaborating to sending off their party cadres to each other’s countries for training and also collaboration between the party schools. The relationship between Cuba and US is dotted with tensions and sanctions. The two countries are keen to collaborate with the US. There is increasing trade ties between Việt Nam and US following the Permanent Normalization of Trade Relations (PNTR) between the two countries.
The leaders of the two countries are on the same page for betterment of their population and providing better living standards to the people. During the time of Obama constructive engagement with Cuba was foreseen. However, during the period of Trump administration, the congenial ties between Cuba and US went on a cold freeze. Cuba has been appreciative of Việt Nam’s support since the Cold War period and there has been exchange of knowledge and information with regard to socialist welfare model and economic liberalisation measures that Việt Nam has undertaken in the past few decades.
In terms of comprehensive partnership the two countries have focused primarily in areas such as agriculture, rice, coffee, aquatic culture, fisheries sector, maize and agrarian sectors. During the meeting between the two leaders it was agreed that the two countries will work together on developing the theoretical framework of Communist movement and better coordination between the foreign ministries of the two countries. In terms of defence and security aspects also there has been collaboration between the two sides and it is expressed that the collaboration should be further expanded.
It has been also seen that collaboration with regard to production of Abdala COVID-19 vaccine in Việt Nam would work in enhancing ties between the two countries in health and medicine sector. Given scourge of the Corona pandemic in Việt Nam it is expected that the medical and health clearances for the vaccine will be expedited quickly.
This Cuba visit happened before Việt Nam's President and the delegation attending the general debate in UN General Assembly in the last week of September. It is expected that the Việt Nam president will also attend bilateral activities in the United States. As the Cuban visit precedes the UN meeting, it clearly exposes the strong solidarity and understanding that the two countries have.
Việt Nam is also going to make a strong pitch in favour of its role as the non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and also put up its candidature for the UN human Rights Council for the period 2023-2025. It is also expected that the Việt Nam's President will hold discussion with other heads of states and important countries related to pandemic prevention and economic recovery in the post pandemic phase.
India has also expressed strong desire with regard to intellectual property rights waiver for the vaccine development and also support to the third world countries in the production of vaccines. Việt Nam has been looking for international producers of vaccines to expedite quick delivery of vaccine doses, critical medical equipment and medical supplies to the country.
Following the permanent normalisation of relations between US and Việt Nam, and the existence of comprehensive partnership between the two countries it is expected that better trade relations between the US and Việt Nam would help Việt Nam to recover from the pandemic enforced economic stress. The US has so far provided more than 6 million doses of vaccine to Việt Nam through the global vaccine mechanism which is known as COVAX. The country is also looking for procuring 20 million doses of Pfizer vaccine for citizens aged 12 to 18. Việt Nam has inoculated nearly 30.4 million doses of vaccines to its population. The fourth wave of the coronavirus is expected to be more devastating and it is compelling for a country like Việt Nam to provide vaccines to its population.
With Cuba the interesting aspect is that the country will transfer the production technology to Việt Nam by the end of this year. Vietnam has been very instrumental in urging the United States to drop the hostile policy towards Cuba. In terms of trade embargo that the US has imposed on Cuba, it is anticipated that US is going to tone down the restrictions and promote trade facilitation between the two countries. Cuba is also planning to export and commercialize its two indigenous vaccines after the World Health Organization (WHO) gives approval. In terms of effectiveness Abdala vaccine is stated to be 92.28 per cent effective against COVID-19 when a person is administered three doses of the vaccine.
Given the closer relationship between the two countries which started with the recognition of Việt Nam by Cuba in 1960 the ties between the two countries have grown multifold. Cuba had also supported Viet Nam during its fight against the US forces in southern Việt Nam and in order to show solidarity Cuba has established mission of Permanent representative in July 1962 and it appointed an Ambassador subsequently in March 1969. The history of relationship between the two countries is replete with examples of cooperation, construction and support for each other’s revolutionary causes.
Việt Nam and Cuba had signed a new trade agreement in November 2018 and have outlined the new agenda for the 2020 – 20 25 period. Việt Nam has grown to be the second largest trading partner for Cuba in Asia. Việt Nam has also supported Cuba in terms of developing rice production techniques and ensuring food security. The two countries celebrated their 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations and are entering a new phase of unity, partnership and better economic relations.
*Pankaj Jha is faculty with Jindal School of International Affairs, O P Jindal Global University, Sonepat.