The coronavirus pandemic has proved to be a true test of friendship among nations. There was widespread outrage among Indians on social media platforms over the perceived reluctance of the United States to come to the aid of India reeling under the catastrophic impact of the second wave. However, the Biden Administration made a climb down and announced its willingness to help India to tide over the unprecedented crisis. It is possible that the American bureaucracy may have taken more time than expected, particularly during a global crisis, to respond to the desperate needs of a friendly nation, but the intent and sincerity of the Biden Administration need not be doubted. The strategic ties between the two countries and the bond between their people are too strong to be affected by such a crisis. The more desperate voices on social media may have jumped their guns too soon to paint the US as an unreliable and unhelpful ally. The latest announcements emerging from Washington regarding the details of assistance provide a sense of reassurance. An important part of support from the US will include supply of raw materials required to ramp up production of vaccines in India. This addresses the key sticking point stemming from the Trump-era order that had halted the export of raw materials critical for the production of Covid vaccines under the Defense Production Act (DPA) of 1950. Apart from this, therapeutics, rapid diagnostic test kits, ventilators, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), oxygen generation and related supplies are also on the way.
Help is pouring in from other countries too; from the UK, European Union to Australia, Canada and the Middle East. The war on a global pandemic can be fought only with the help of a coordinated global response. It must be pointed out that in the initial phase of the pandemic outbreak, India had extended help to the US, including sending emergency medical supplies, and later sent free doses of Covid-19 vaccines to several countries, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives, Mauritius, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. India had also contributed to the World Health Organization’s Covax initiative, a global programme that aims to ensure supplies to the countries in need of the vaccine. One of the important lessons learnt during the pandemic has been that global responses alone can help tackle diseases that know no boundaries. It is now the turn of India to receive 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine from America in the next two months. Under the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue comprising India, US, Australia, and Japan) Vaccine Initiative, US Development Finance Corporation is also funding a substantial expansion of manufacturing capability for BioE, the vaccine manufacturer in India.