Washington, May 19 (PTI) Americans, cutting across party and ideological divide, have rallied behind India to help the country in fight against the deadly second wave of the COVID-19 infection that has claimed thousands of lives in the last several weeks.
Not only scores of top American lawmakers from the two Democratic and the Republican parties but also the progressive; moderates and liberals, along with those from the Congressional Black Caucus and the Hispanics have played a key role in pushing the entire administration and the corporate world to mount one of the largest ever public-private American assistance partnerships to a foreign country.
President Joe Biden himself is taking a personal interest in this assistance effort, while the corporate sector led by US Chambers of Commerce along with US India Business Council and US India Strategic and Partnership Forum have brought together 40 top CEOs to create a global task force to help India in particular and other countries in general to help them in fight against COVID-19.
For the past several weeks, India has been struggling with a second wave of the pandemic. Hospitals in the country are reeling under a shortage of medical oxygen and beds.
India saw record 4,529 fatalities due to coronavirus in a single day pushing the COVID-19 death toll to 2,83,248, while 2,67,334 fresh infections were recorded taking the total tally of cases to 2,54,96,330, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Wednesday.
The government has been receiving international cooperation through COVID-19 relief medical supplies and equipment since April 27 from different countries and organisations. The collective American aid could easily touch USD 1 billion by the end of this month, those tracking the assistance said, given the massive amount of money that the Indian Americans too have been raising for this.
This outpouring of support from the US, rarely seen in America except for the one reserved for Israel, comes along with an unprecedented outreach by India’s top envoy in the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, who over the past few weeks have held a few hundred meeting, scores of whom have appeared on the social media as well.
“Only collectively, we can fight this unprecedented global challenge,” Sandhu told PTI reflecting on the meetings that he has had over the past few weeks with corporate leaders, officials of the Biden administration, Congressmen and Senators and Indian Americans.
Meeting more than a 100 Congressmen and Senators, albeit virtually due to COVID-19 restrictions might be a record in itself for an ambassador in the US. He has had virtual meetings with more than two dozen top American CEOs, along with several governors, business groups and diaspora.
“India and the US have demonstrated the strength and depth of the bilateral partnership, by coming to each other's support, when it mattered the most – last year and this year - in our fight against the pandemic. India appreciates the support extended by the US Government, Congress, private sector and the American public in this regard,” Sandhu said.
Lawmakers have written more than half a dozen letters to President Biden pushing for more assistance to India. All of them, irrespective of party and ideological affiliations, including many who have been critical of the Indian government in the past on various issues, have called for increased assistance to India.
“I think we’ve seen an incredible recognition of the need for the US to provide assistance to India from across the White House, Congress, the private sector, and the Indian diaspora. I’ve been pressing hard to expand on the assistance and efforts we’ve seen already, and I’ll soon be introducing legislation to do exactly that,” Indian American Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi told PTI.
Addressing the crisis in India is about saving lives there today but also defeating the coronavirus now before it mutates into even more dangerous variants in the future, he said.
“If we don’t work with India and other nations to get this newest round of outbreaks under control, the new mutant variants of the disease could place millions more lives at stake in India, the United States, and across the world. This is truly a global crisis which will take global efforts to end from across the government, private, and non-profit sectors,” Krishnamoorthi said.
“The United States must urgently respond to India’s ghastly COVID-19 surge. A failure to do so will prove we failed to learn a vital lesson from the last year: we are only as safe as the sickest, most vulnerable among us. Technology entrepreneurs & innovators have stepped up in the absence of sufficient government intervention,” Indian American Congressman Ro Khanna told PTI.
But nothing can match the might of the American government, he said.
“We must dramatically increase USAID’s shipments of oxygen, ventilators, therapeutics, personal protective equipment, and other medical supplies to India, and expedite the transfer of AstraZeneca vaccines. But most importantly to prevent the next wave predicted for India, we must push the private sector to share with India and other developing countries the technology and know-how to beat the pandemic,” Khanna said.
Among top American Senators who have come out in support of India include Dick Durbin, John Cornyn, Mark Warner, Bob Menendez, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Jeff Merkley, Ed Markey, Jim Risch, Dianne Feinstein, Chris Van Hollen, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Gary Peters.
“We are very heartened to see the urgent and meaningful collaboration of government and the corporate sector to help address the pandemic issues,” Vivek Lall, Chief Executive for the General Atomics Global Corporation, told PTI.
“The US-India bilateral relationship enjoys strong, longstanding and bipartisan support,” said Lall, is a Board Member of US India Business Council, reflecting on the outpouring of support from the US to India.
According to the US India Friendship Alliance of USISPF, the industry partners have so far committed 38,000 oxygen concentrators.
On Tuesday, 1,050 oxygen concentrators donated by IBM and Accenture reached India. And on Monday, more than 780 oxygen concentrators, over 1.8 million KN95 masks, and medicines & pharmaceutical supplies were unloaded from a FedEx Boeing 777F charter flight in New Delhi.
According to Punit Renjen, CEO of Deloittee, the Global Task Force is on track to ship another 20,000 oxygen concentrators to India this month and another 20,000 to 40,000 in June.
“We must all acknowledge the immensity of what’s going on in India right now and it’s our responsibility as members of the community to go help as much as we can,' Arvind Krishna from IBM said during a global forum organised by the US Chambers of Commerce.
'Over 90 countries are dependent on India for the #vaccine today, which highlights the power of working together,' said Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture during the same forum.
“There isn’t really a part of our individual American lives that isn’t touched in some way by the deep partnership that we’ve had with India for decades,' she added. PTI LKJ AMS NSA