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Minister of Foreign and Caricom Affairs Dr Amery Browne, right and India High Commissioner to T&T Arun Kumar Sahu greet each other prior to their meeting at the ministry’s headquarters yesterday.

Bilateral talks and the prospect of a pharmaceutical Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) dominated yesterday’s meeting between Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne and Indian High Commissioner Arun Kumar Sahu.

In a joint media statement after the two-hour meeting, the two said that they had “very candid, friendly and comprehensive discussions on the bilateral relationship” between Trinidad and Tobago and India.

“Discussions were held on recent developments, including the matter of access to vaccines, and there was consensus that the two countries would work even closer together on this matter,” the statement said.

“Other sectors of interest were also identified for the enhancement of the bilateral cooperation between Trinidad and Tobago and India, such as pharmaceuticals and healthcare, Information and Communication Technology (ICT), Information Technology-Enabled Services (ITES), Renewable Energy and Agriculture.”

Browne subsequently described the meeting as “productive.”

“I broached the prospect of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two nations that would focus on pharmaceutical collaboration, in addition to several other areas of expansion for our bilateral agenda,” Browne told Guardian Media.

“The High Commissioner was open to such possibilities and committed to engaging in the relevant consultations with his capital.”

On Saturday, Browne stepped into the fraying relationship between Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and Sahu over access to vaccines from India and called for “diplomacy and dialogue.”

Browne’s call for diplomacy was timely, as Rowley and Sahu were butting heads over the vaccine issue.

In a statement over the weekend, however, Sahu said efforts were being made to supply some vaccines to T&T but there is no time frame for the delivery yet.

Yesterday, Sahu said the meeting with Browne was “successful and conducted in the best interests of the long-standing ties that bind our two nations.”

In a statement during his Conversations with the Prime Minister last Thursday, Rowley read out a letter from the Caricom Secretariat that said it had no overall offer from India for donated vaccines from India and that countries under the jurisdiction of the Indian High Commissioner to Guyana were facilitated with the Indian-made vaccine. On Friday, Rowley said that the T&T High Commissioner’s office in New Delhi also confirmed that there was no correspondence from the Indian External Affairs Minister regarding a vaccine donation to T&T. Rowley blamed Sahu for the issue and said it was compounded by Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

Last Tuesday, Rowley held a virtual meeting with China President Xi Jinping about the vaccine from Sinopharm.

Although Sinopharm does not yet have World Health Organisation (WHO) approval, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh told Guardian Media last Wednesday that T&T could put in a request for vaccines contingent on that approval.