New Delhi: With pressure continuing to build on the US to send more medical supplies to India and ease restrictions on certain critical items, Washington has expressed concern over the evolving situation and offered help.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan both said the US will “rapidly deploy additional support” to help India tide over this crisis.
India is reeling under an unprecedented situation with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic claiming hundreds of lives daily.
“Our hearts go out to the Indian people in the midst of the horrific COVID-19 outbreak. We are working closely with our partners in the Indian government, and we will rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India and India’s health care heroes,” Blinken said in a tweet.
“The U.S. is deeply concerned by the severe COVID outbreak in India. We are working around the clock to deploy more supplies and support to our friends and partners in India as they bravely battle this pandemic. More very soon,” tweeted Sullivan.
However, it was not immediately clear whether the US will ease restrictions on the export of raw materials that is crucial for the production of Covid vaccines in India.
India is currently reporting record Covid-19 cases, including the world’s highest single-day spike, while it plans to open up vaccinations to everyone over the age of 18 from 1 May.
The US has come under considerable pressure from academicians, researchers and industry experts among others to consider exceptions to the Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950, for India, under which Washington has halted the export of raw materials critical for the production of Covid vaccines.
It was in early March that the issue was first raised by Adar Poonawalla, chief executive officer, Serum Institute of India, the world’s biggest vaccine manufacturer.
Poonawalla wrote to the World Health Organization (WHO) over facing difficulties owing to restrictions in the export of raw materials for Covid vaccines from the US.
On Friday, the US Chamber of Commerce had also asked the White House “to release millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses in storage” to India, Brazil and other such countries where the pandemic.
“Help in on the way to India. Presumably, the administration concluded it was best to wait to issue statements until there was something concrete to announce, or at least to hint at. Still, the delay=a bad idea,” tweeted Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director and Senior Associate (South Asia) at the US-based think tank The Wilson Center, in response to Blinken and Sullivan’s tweets.
Jeff Smith, Research Fellow (South Asia), The Heritage Foundation, also tweeted “about time,” in response to Blinken’s tweet.
Earlier this week, a group of prominent think-tanks — Carnegie India, Vivekananda International Foundation, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), IDFC Institute and Takshashila Institution — had asked the Biden government to be ‘more supportive’ in his approach to Covid vaccine supply chains that would help India.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)