After almost 72 hours of silence from the time India began to breach the record infections mid-week, President Joe Biden tweeted, “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.”
Just as India sent assistance to the United States as our hospitals were strained early in the pandemic, we are det… https://t.co/7X02c6Mtbn
— President Biden (@POTUS) 1619378957000
Biden conspicuously invoked New Delhi’s help to the US during its crisis after his administration was trolled relentlessly for ingratitude, given India exertions in providing therapeutics and vaccines for the US and many other countries at a time it (India) thought it had the domestic situation under control.
Moments later, vice-president Kamala Harris tweeted: 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.
The U.S. is working closely with the Indian government to rapidly deploy additional support and supplies during an… https://t.co/1QAbI37yFV
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) 1619380251000
Harris too attracted criticism over her silence, particularly in light of her own Indian heritage.
The full court press from Washington, which some pundits saw as damage control after the administration came under fire from critics on all sides, included defense secretary Lloyd Austin, the senior most cabinet official in the Biden administration to visit India.
Austin said he was deeply concerned about the Covid-19 outbreak in India, and directed the Pentagon to “use every resources at our disposal, within our authority, to support US interagency efforts to provide India’s frontline healthcare workers with the materials they need.”
I’m deeply concerned about the COVID-19 outbreak in India, and today, I directed the @DeptofDefense to use every re… https://t.co/tFbk7cHoNg
— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) 1619393828000
“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, adding, the Pentagon is “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,” he pledged.
US deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman joined the chorus, saying she had been in touch with Indian officials, including foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and India’s ambassador to the US Taranjit Sandhu in recent days.
“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,” she tweeted.
I’ve been in close touch with FS @HarshVShringla and Amb @SandhuTaranjitS in recent days. The American people stand… https://t.co/ZHGS4wgNni
— Wendy R. Sherman (@DeputySecState) 1619376026000
At the time of writing, Washington was still getting its act together in terms of supplies and logistics. Officials said some 300 oxygen concentrators flown to India out of New York on Sunday on an Air India flight was part of a contract between two private parties, and no US government-mandated equipment had yet headed out to India.