Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla has warned of 'reciprocal measures' if the UK government held firm to its decision to not recognise India's Covishield as a legitimate anti-COVID vaccine.
Earlier on Tuesday, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar had urged Britain to remove a rule requiring Indians visiting there to quarantine even if they are fully vaccinated.
The Covishield vaccine, developed by AstraZeneca and manufactured in India by Pune-based Serum Institute, is not recognised by Britain under new rules despite being identical to the doses given to millions of Britons.
Addressing the media in New Delhi, Shringla said that the 'nonrecognition of Covishield' was a "discriminatory policy that impacts our citizens travelling to the UK".
"The basic issue is that Covishield is a licensed product of a UK company manufactured in India, of which we have supplied five million doses to the UK at the request of their government. We understand that it has been used in their national health system
The honourable external affairs minister, from what I understand, has raised this issue strongly with his counterpart. If we don't get satisfaction, would be within our rights to take reciprocal measures," said Shringla.
The rules, that come into effect next month, have caused anger, with many Indians branding the decision as discriminatory. Britons vaccinated in the United Kingdom with the same Indian-made doses are not required to quarantine.
"Urged early resolution of quarantine issue in mutual interest," Jaishankar said in a tweet after a meeting with British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss in New York, where both are attending the United Nations General Assembly.
The British High Commission (embassy) in New Delhi said the United Kingdom was working with India to resolve the issue.
"We are engaging with the Government of India to explore how we could expand UK recognition of vaccine certification to people vaccinated by a relevant public health body in India," a spokesperson said.
The rules, that mandate 10 days of self-isolation for travellers arriving from India, also apply to many other countries using Covishield, including most African ones.
Shashi Tharoor MP said on Monday he had cancelled a planned book tour of Britain in protest against the rules.
"It is offensive to ask fully vaccinated Indians to quarantine," he said.
A second lawmaker, Jairam Ramesh, said the decision "smacks of racism".
AstraZeneca is one of the key providers to Britain's vaccination program, along with US peers Moderna and Pfizer.
The AstraZeneca vaccine makes up most of the doses given to Indians to date. A smaller number have taken an indigenous vaccine developed by Bharat Biotech, which is not in use in Britain.
According to new rules, Indian travellers who have received both doses of the Covishield vaccine will be considered unvaccinated and will have to undergo self-isolation for 10 days.
From October 4, the current "traffic light system" of red, amber, green countries based on levels of COVID-19 risk will be replaced by one red list of countries.
The scrapping of the amber list, which is what India is currently on, means a reduced PCR test cost burden only for some travellers.
The expanded list of countries whose vaccines are recognised in the UK does not include India. It means Indians vaccinated with Covishield, the SII-produced Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, would be required to undergo compulsory PCR tests as well as self-isolation.