US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have assured India and its people of providing all assistance, including urgently sending necessary medical life-saving supplies and equipment, to help the country combat the deadly coronavirus crisis.
“Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are determined to help India in its time of need,” Biden said in a tweet. The President was spending his weekend at his home in Delaware but is believed to be following up the developments in India.
“The US is working closely with the Indian government to rapidly deploy additional support and supplies during an alarming COVID-19 outbreak. As we provide assistance, we pray for the people of India including its courageous healthcare workers,” Harris said in a tweet.
The tweets by Biden and Harris are the first reactions by the top American leadership after the recent outbreak of deadly COVID19 pandemic in India. The two have been criticizsed by friends of India in the US, including some of their own party leaders, for slow response to the American help to their natural ally.
Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said she has been in close touch with Foreign Secretary Harshvardhan Shringla and India’s Ambassador to US Taranjit Singh Sandhu in recent days on the issue. “The American people stand in solidarity with our friends in India during these difficult times. We are rapidly providing therapeutics, ventilators, PPE, raw material for vaccines, and more,” Sherman said.
Earlier on Sunday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan spoke to his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval during which the White House announced that it is urgently sending medical supplies and equipment to save lives in India. The Indian-American community, which had been critical of the Biden administration so far, welcomed the move. “Great to see our US India partnership at work at this critical time,” Indiaspora said after Biden’s tweet.
“Good first steps,” Indian-American Democratic bundler Shekar Narasimhan said after Sullivan announced details of the assistance to India. In a tweet, he described it as “moving the needle”. “I am also counting on private and corporate actions to make a difference. Many have a big stake in India and it’s not just Indian Americans,” he said.
India’s Ambassador to US Sandhu thanked both US Secretary of State Tony Blinken and Sullivan for their prompt response. “Thank you Sullivan for your reach out and support. We will fight the global pandemic through our collective action!” he said in a tweet.
“Thank you Secretary Blinken for your solidarity and support. Together, we will fight the global pandemic!” Sandhu said in another tweet. Indian-American Congressman Ro Khanna, Congressional India Caucus Vice Chair and Member of the House Armed Services Committee, applauded the Biden administration.
“International cooperation and humanitarian assistance are the hallmarks of a truly progressive foreign policy. In the face of apocalyptic numbers of COVID-19 cases & new variants exploding in India, I applaud the Biden administration’s decision to put people over profits and provide additional Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), oxygen, and other medical supplies to India,” Khanna said.
“I am also pleased to see the deployment of raw materials for India to produce more vaccines and USAID’s work with the CDC to expedite the mobilisation of emergency resources for India through the Global Fund. This must be done with the utmost speed and urgency.” he said.
Khanna said the Biden administration can still do more, like give India ‘our stockpile’ of AstraZeneca vaccines that won’t be used in the US and have already opened up to Mexico and Canada. “And we should facilitate the Indian diaspora in America to help assist hospitals in India.”
Khanna said the administration should also call on Pfizer and Moderna to provide an intellectual property waiver for six months to a year as India grapples with the COVID-19 crisis. It will buy them an inordinate amount of goodwill in one of the largest emerging markets, he added.
“The White House should also convene Indian business leaders to make the case for why this is in these companies’ long-term strategic interest. Many Indian American business leaders such as Vinod Khosla are happy to make the case to them why this is a good business decision. Mr. Khosla has committed to financially help any hospitals in India in need of supplies and will also be speaking with the India Caucus leadership to discuss what else can be done to assist,” Khanna said.
In a statement, Khanna said he is looking forward to joining the India Caucus leadership on a call with Indian Ambassador to US Taranjit Singh Sandhu to discuss what additional steps the US can take to help India during this “incredibly difficult time”.
“This is a very tough time for the Indian people and underscores the continued threat of COVID-19. These new strains of the virus are gravely alarming and could pose a threat here in America and across the globe if we do not do all we can to contain the virus and its new variants,” he said.