Biden asked his administration to provide all assistance to India: Officials

Lalit K Jha
·4-min read

Washington, May 1 (PTI) President Joe Biden has asked his administration to provide all assistance to India, which is battling one of the worst outbreaks of COVID-19, and has assured that the US would stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the country, top officials from the two nations have said.

Biden sent two of his top officials to the Dulles Airport here on Friday evening from where another flight with USAID assistance materials including oxygen cylinders, N95 masks and filters to be used in the production of vaccines were dispatched to News Delhi. The first two flights arrived in New Delhi a day earlier.

“He (Biden) said great. Stay with it. Stay with it!,” veteran diplomat Kurt Campbell, who is leading Biden’s Asia Policy at the White House told reporters at the airport on Friday evening.

Campbell travelled with Biden on Air Force One during his trip to Georgia. On his way back, Campbell briefed the president of the administration’s COVID-19 relief efforts for India.

“I was able to give a sense of what USAID (United States Agency for International Development) is doing, what it hopes to accomplish,” he said in response to a question.

India’s Ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu told reporters at the Dulles Airport: “The administration, starting right from the top, President Biden reached out and in fact, to quote him, the United States will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with India. We very much appreciate that.” Sandhu also applauded the bipartisan support that India has received from American congressmen and senators.

The US businesses have come forward in an unprecedented way.

“Finally, the people of the United States, their solidarity with the people of India is very much recognised and appreciated. And also the Indian American community. I'm sure, with the support of friends and partners like the United States, we will face this challenge and with God's grace, we will come out of it,” Sandhu said.

Campbell said he and his National Security Council colleague Sumona Guha, who is senior director for South Asia there, were sent by the president to the airport before the COVID-19 relief material left for India.

“The President asked us to come out today to well wish this supply going to India,” Campbell said, as he applauded the tireless efforts of Ambassador Sandhu for helping in every way he can.

Campbell said during his call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week, Biden made clear that India was one of the first countries that came to the rescue of the US in May last year when Americans were suffering from the pandemic.

“They stepped up for us. This time, we in the United States, our people in the government, but also in the private sector… I've never seen such an outpouring of support from our corporate friends, and partners, as we've seen over the last several days,” he said.

“What we are coordinating is the most significant outpouring of support for people that I've never seen from the corporate community. We're trying to be there for India, now as they were with us before. We know that this is going to be a long haul,” he said.

“This is only the first couple of days. We have to be determined. We have to work in partnership.....we have to do this together. And we're committed to doing that,” he said.

Guha told reporters that the Biden administration was working to provide India with supplies that they've asked for: oxygen, testing equipment, and PPE kits.

Jeremy Konyndyk, senior advisor coordinating agency-wide COVID efforts at USAID told reporters that the plane headed for India from Dulles airport sent oxygen cylinders, N95 respirators and others.

“These are materials that will help to sustain people sick with COVID-19 in India. Oxygen treatment is one of the most effective ways to treat Severe COVID-19,' he said.

'Everything behind us here, everything on this flight will be saving lives in India in the coming days in partnership and support of our partners in the Indian government and in support of the Indian people,” he added.

Responding to a question, Konyndyk said the purpose of these aid packages is to help support the Indian people in the Indian hospital system in particular to save as many lives as possible in the immediate term. There will be additional flights leaving for India in days and weeks ahead.

“As part of this package of assistance that the US is providing, we are at the request of the Indian government, rerouting filters that are a critical component of vaccine production, from the US production of AstraZeneca to the Indian company Serum Institute of India, to enable them to scale up their vaccine production of AstraZeneca further,” he said. PTI LKJ NSA AKJ NSA