Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said the UK would “look very carefully” at any request for vaccines from India as the nation struggles to tackle a deadly wave of coronavirus.
The Cabinet minister will meet with his Indian counterpart Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Monday as he hosts face-to-face meetings with G7 foreign ministers.
A major humanitarian crisis is under way as new variants in part fuel a surge in cases in India, where Covid-19 has claimed at least 215,000 lives.
The UK has sent shipments of oxygen concentrators and ventilators to Delhi, but the nation is in dire need of vaccines despite it being the world’s largest manufacturer of jabs.
Mr Raab said the Government has not had a request for vaccines from Delhi as he was questioned over plans as Britain vaccinates younger and healthier people.
“We’ll always look very carefully at any requests we’ve got,” he told The Andrew Marr Show.
He said he was not going to “speculate on hypothetical scenarios” when pressed if ministers would grant India access to UK supplies.
“The Indian relationship is very important to us and we’d obviously want to co-operate very closely together,” Mr Raab said.
“You know, right throughout this crisis we have said we need to keep supply chains, particularly supply chains, open and we ought to resolve these kind of issues through collaboration, and that is certainly what we’re doing with the Indians.”
His Labour shadow Lisa Nandy said Britain should aim to send jabs to India “as soon as possible” but that the UK programme should not be paused to do so.
“We haven’t defeated this virus in Britain yet and we need to keep up the momentum with that vaccination programme,” she told Marr on the BBC.
“This is a question that is really personal to me. I just found out last night that a close family member in India is in hospital with Covid and I’ve got family members here in the UK who are deeply affected by Covid as well.”
A UK order of five million AstraZeneca doses has been stalled in India over a need for re-testing and there have been questions over whether the Government may allow them to be used there.
Professor Peter Openshaw, a scientist who advises the Government, said it would be a “very reasonable arrangement” to allow India to keep those jabs.
But he added: “It’s a matter of balancing what we have available to our own population and what we can distribute equitably around the world through these well-organised systems that are in place.”