COVID-19 crisis: From friends US and UK to arch-rivals Pakistan and China, international community vows aid to India

·14-min read

With India's struggle to combat the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic garnering both attention and anxiety abroad, many countries have stepped forward to offer both support and supplies.

The list of benefactors includes United States, Germany, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Pakistan and China; the last two being noteworthy due to strained ties with New Delhi. The European Union has also assured support in replenishing India's stocks of oxygen and COVID-19 treatment drugs like remdesivir.

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Here is a look at the assistance offered by various countries thus far:

United States

After much dithering over whether to export to India the raw materials required for manufacturing the Covishield vaccine, the US on Sunday finally announced that it will "immediate" provide the required resources.

The White House said that the Biden administration was "working around the clock" to deploy all supplies to bolster India's fight against the deadly COVID-19 spike.

The move came after the US government faced criticism from several quarters including from members and supporters of the Democratic Party and on social media, for not releasing surplus COVID-19 vaccines to India, which is experiencing its worst-ever public health crisis.

US National Security Advisor (NSA) Jake Sullivan, in a telephonic conversation with his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval on Sunday, "affirmed" America's solidarity with India, PTI reported.

"Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, the United States is determined to help India in its time of need," Biden tweeted on Sunday.

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Building on the seven-decade health partnership between the United States and India €" including battles against smallpox, polio and HIV €"they resolved that India and the United States will continue to fight the global COVID-19 pandemic together, said Emily Horne, spokesperson of the US NSA after the phone call between Sullivan and Doval.

"To help treat COVID-19 patients and protect the front-line health workers in India, the US has identified supplies of therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators, and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that will immediately be made available for India," she said.

Horne said the US also is pursuing options to provide oxygen generation and related supplies on an urgent basis.

Vice-President Kamala Harris also assured India all assistance. "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.

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The tweets by Biden and Harris are the first reactions by the top American leadership after the recent outbreak of deadly COVID-19 pandemic in India. The two have been criticised by supporters of India in the US including some of their own party leaders, for the slow response to help an ally.

Defence Secretary Austin Lloyd has also directed the Pentagon to provide all necessary support to Indian healthcare workers battling the worsening coronavirus situation in the country.

"The men and women of the Department of Defense stand by our Indian partners in their hour of need. We are in this fight together," Austin said in a statement on Sunday.

Austin said he has directed the department to use every resource at its disposal, to support US interagency efforts to rapidly provide India's frontline healthcare workers with the materials they need.

"We are currently assessing the equipment we can both procure and draw from our own inventory in the coming days and weeks. In the next few days, we will provide transportation and logistics assistance to deliver needed supplies to India, including oxygen-related equipment, rapid testing kits, and personal protective equipment," Austin said.

United Kingdom

The UK has also stepped in with an offer to provide medical equipment like ventilators and oxygen concentrator devices. The first consignment of aid material is likely to reach India on Tuesday, BBC reported.

Prime minister Boris Johnson said vital medical equipment, including hundreds of oxygen concentrators and ventilators, is now on its way from the UK to India to support efforts to prevent "tragic loss" of life from the "terrible virus".

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"We stand side by side with India as a friend and partner during what is a deeply concerning time in the fight against COVID-19," Johnson was quoted in a statement released by the high commission.

"We will continue to work closely with the Indian government during this difficult time and I'm determined to make sure that the UK does everything it can to support the international community in the global fight against the pandemic," he said.

The Indian High Commission in London said more than 600 pieces of vital medical equipment are being sent to India to support the country in its fight against COVID-19.

"In total, nine airline container loads of supplies, including 495 oxygen concentrators, 120 non-invasive ventilators and 20 manual ventilators, will be sent to the country this week," it said. It said the equipment will be crucial in helping to save the lives of the most vulnerable in India.

"The oxygen concentrators, for example, can extract oxygen from the air in the atmosphere so that it can be provided to patients, taking the strain off hospital oxygen systems and allowing oxygen to be provided in situations where hospital oxygen supplies have run out," it said.

The high commission said the assistance package, funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, includes ventilators and oxygen concentrators from surplus stocks.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said, "We have all got to work together to tackle COVID-19. India is a very important partner to us, so we're providing oxygen concentrators and ventilators to help save the lives of the most vulnerable."

"We will be following up on this first delivery with further support, based on our ongoing discussions with the Indian Government," he added.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has said: "The heart-breaking scenes in India show once again how awful this terrible disease is. We are determined to support the people of India through this very difficult time, and I am hugely grateful to those who have worked hard to make this initial delivery happen."

"The global pandemic has challenged health systems all across the world and the best way to overcome adversity is to unite and defeat this dreadful disease together," he said. The first consignment of aid left the UK on Sunday and is due to arrive in India on Tuesday. Further shipments will take place later in the week.

Germany

Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday said that her government is "urgently" preparing a "mission of support" for India, and that Germany stands in solidarity with India in the "common fight" against the pandemic.

"To the people of India I want to express my sympathy on the terrible suffering that COVID-19 has again brought over your communities. The fight against the pandemic is our common fight. Germany stands in solidarity with India and is urgently preparing a mission of support," Merkel said.

Her message was shared on Twitter by German Ambassador to India Walter J Lindner.

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The Indian Express quoted the German defence ministry as saying that the foreign ministry "had asked the military to look into providing a mobile oxygen production facility as well as support to transport other emergency and relief goods to India".

Additionally, The Tribune reported that the Centre is planning to airlift 23 mobile oxygen generation plants from Germany.

"These 23 mobile oxygen generation plants are being airlifted from Germany. These will be deployed in AFMS hospitals catering to the COVID patients," Ministry of Defence spokesperson Bharat Bhushan Babu was quoted as saying.

"These oxygen generating plants are expected to be here within a week," the report added.

Saudi Arabia, Singapore, EU

Saudi Arabia, one of India's closes allies, has promised to ship 80 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to India in cooperation with the Adani group and British multinational company Linde.

"Embassy of India is proud to partner with Adani group and M/s Linde in shipping much-needed 80MT liquid oxygen to India. Our heartfelt thanks to the Ministry of Health Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for all their help, support, and cooperation, the Indian mission in Riyadh tweeted.

"Thank you @IndianEmbRiyadh Indeed, actions speak louder than words. We are on an urgent mission to secure oxygen supplies from across the world. This first shipment of 4 ISO cryogenic tanks with 80 tons of liquid oxygen is now on its way from Dammam to Mundra, Adani Group Chairman Gautam Adani said in a tweet.

Additionally, the Indian Air Force on Saturday airlifted four cryogenic tanks, to be used for transporting oxygen, from Singapore. The containers were airlifted from Singapore by C17 heavy-lift aircraft of the IAF.

The aircraft "with 4 cryogenic containers for storage of liquid O2 from Singapore landed at Panagarh airbase" in West Bengal on Saturday, a home ministry spokesperson tweeted.

Meanwhile, President of the European Council Charles Michel said in a tweet, "The EU stands in solidarity with Indian people amidst resurgent COVID19 pandemic. The fight against the virus is a common fight. We will discuss our support and cooperation at EU-India Leaders' meeting on 8 May with @narendramodi and @antoniocostapm".

Pakistan

Pakistan has offered to provide ventilators and other specific relief items "once the modalities" are worked out, the Pakistani government said on Saturday.

New Delhi's "arch-rival", as Pakistan is being described in foreign media, has offered to send ventilators, Bi PAP, digital X ray machines, PPEs and related items.

The offer was made after Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan expressed solidarity with the people of India battling the deadly wave of the pandemic, saying we must fight this global challenge confronting humanity together.

In a tweet, Imran said: "Our prayers for a speedy recovery go to all those suffering from the pandemic in our neighbourhood and the world."

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Several Pakistanis including political leaders, sports celebrities, took to twitter to offer prayers and good wishes for the people of India.

Hashtags like #pakistanstandwithindia in support of India were trending and twitteratis poured in their ideas for Pakistan and India to come together in the difficult times. Former cricketer Shoaib Akhtar said that it was time to support each other.

China

While Beijing said it was "in communication" with New Delhi about bolstering India's fight against COVID-19, the state-run Sichuan Airlines on Monday suspended all its cargo flights to India for 15 days, causing major disruption to private traders' efforts to procure the much-needed oxygen concentrators and other medical supplies, PTI reported.

"China has been following closely the epidemic situation in India. We show our sincerest sympathies to the worsening situation in India," Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said in a media briefing on Monday while answering several questions, including the suspension of cargo flights by the Sichuan Airlines.

"We have stated that we are ready to help India fight the virus in the first opportunity available. Two sides are in communication regarding this," he said.

However, Wang declined to react to Sichuan Airlines' decision to suspend its cargo flights to several destinations to India.

In a letter to the sales agents on Monday, the Sichuan Chuanhang Logistics Co. Ltd, the company which is part of the Sichuan Airlines said the airline has suspended its cargo flights on six routes, including Xian to Delhi, amid hectic efforts by private traders from both sides to procure oxygen concentrators from China.

In the letter accessed by PTI, the company said, "In the face of sudden changes in the epidemic situation (in India), in order to reduce the number of imported cases, it is decided" to suspend the flights for the next 15 days. Indian route has always been the core strategic route for Sichuan Airlines. This suspension has also caused great losses to our company. We are very sorry for the unchanged situation," the letter said and sought the "understanding of its sales agents."

It also said the company will review the situation after 15 days.

The suspension of cargo flights came as a surprise to agents and freight forwarders who are frantically trying to procure the oxygen concentrators from China.

This development came days after Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian last week told a media briefing that China expresses sincere sympathies to India over the deteriorating coronavirus situation in the country recently.

"The Chinese government and people firmly support the Indian government and people in fighting the coronavirus ," he said.

"China is ready to provide support and help according to India's need, and is in communication with the Indian side on this. We believe that the Indian people will defeat the virus at an early date," Zhao said in response to a question from the official Chinese media if Beijing is having communications with New Delhi on providing help to India fight the pandemic.

France, Afghanistan extend solidarity to India

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani joined the international community in expressing solidarity with India as it reels under the second wave of the pandemic.

"Our hearts go out to the Indian people & government as they fight the horrendous outbreak of COVID. On behalf of the Afghan people & government, we send our condolences to the families who lost their loved ones & wish a quick recovery to those who are suffering from the virus," Ghani tweeted.

Afghan foreign minister Mohammed Haneef Atmar said India has the prayers and support of all those nations that it has assisted generously with COVID-19 vaccines.

"Our hearts and prayers go to all the great people of India at this time of national struggle against Covid-19. India has the prayers and support of all those nations that it has assisted generously with COVID vaccines. India will come out of it even stronger," he said.

On Friday, French president Emmanuel Macron had offered his country's support to it.

"I want to send a message of solidarity to the Indian people, facing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. France is with you in this struggle, which spares no one. We stand ready to provide our support," Macron said.

India's situation grim

The country crossed the grim milestone of 1.50 crore coronavirus cases on 19 April, while active cases have crossed the 28-lakh mark.

Several experts have also pointed to the possibility of large-scale undercounting of cases and deaths, with health systems getting overwhelmed by the scale of the outbreak.

 

Also See: COVID-19 vaccine: US to send 'urgently required' raw material to manufacture Covishield in India

UP imposes weekend curfew across state, bans non-essential activities in districts with over 500 COVID-19 cases

COVID-19 oxygen crisis: MHA directs states, UTs to not impose restrictions on movement of medical oxygen

Read more on India by Firstpost.

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