US gives vague assurance on helping amid criticism it is tone deaf to India’s Covid crisis – Times of India

US gives vague assurance on helping amid criticism it is tone deaf to India’s Covid crisis – Times of India


WASHINGTON: The Biden White House on Thursday said it is working closely with New Delhi to identify ways to help India with its ongoing pandemic crisis amid and criticism that it is being tone deaf in responding to the country urgent needs.
“The United States offers our deepest sympathy to the people of India who are clearly suffering during this global pandemic,” White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said at a briefing, affirming that the Center for Disease Control is offering technical advice without addressing pleas to release raw materials for vaccines, and send US surplus vaccines, oxygen kits, ventilators and other equipment to India.
The two sides are said to be in high level discussion on the issue but there is a perceptible lack of urgency on part of the Biden administration, which has made anodyne statements on the crisis for three days, even as calls are coming from lawmakers and activists pressing the US to move quickly given the dire situation in India.
Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, no friend of India when it comes to its human rights record or its quest for nuclear status (he bitterly opposed the US-India nuclear deal) was among those who urged the White House controlled by his own party to move quickly, saying, the US has more than enough vaccines for every American, but it is denying countries like India that desperately need it now.
“We have the resources to help, and other people need it; that makes it our moral obligation to do so,” Markey said in a tweet, referring to the immense crisis in India.
California Congressman Ro Khanna was among several lawmakers who pressed for urgent response from the Biden White House, citing a plea from Harvard‘s public health expert Ashish Jha who is urging US to immediately send its surplus, unused Astra Zeneca vaccine to India.
“India is in the throes of a horrendous Covidsurge. Horrendous. They are struggling to get more people vaccinated. We are sitting on 35-40 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine Americans will never use. Can we please give or lend them to India? Like may be now? It’ll help. A lot,” Jha said on Wednesday.
But beyond offering lip sympathy and vague assurances, the Biden administration has done little, despite, as several activists pointed out on social media, New Delhi stepping up to supply Hydrochloroquin when the Trump administration wanted it urgently and then cranking up its vaccine-making capacity to meet the needs of the world.
The theme of can’t depend on/can’t trust Washington ran through several social media posts even as there were no signs of the White House responding to the direct plea from Adar Poonawalla, CEO of the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine-maker, seeking a lifting of the embargo of raw material exports out of the US. so that vaccine production can ramp up. US officials have said Washington is committed to inoculating Americans “first and foremost,” implicitly defending restrictions on the export of raw materials.
Several public petitions are now circulating in the US with thousands of signatories urging the White House to act urgently. One of them is requesting that the Biden administration and the WHO help India through among other actions: Provide access to essential ingredients and the know-how for mRNA vaccines so that vaccine manufacturers in India can manufacture and distribute these vaccines at scale; Provide medicines such as Remdesivir at low cost to address shortages; Provide medical grade oxygen, and provide logistical support to set up ICU beds.
“Collectively, we cannot defeat this virus unless all parts of our planet have this virus under control. And right now, all hell has broken lose in the second most populous country in the world and unless the US government steps in to help, we are going to see unimaginable suffering in India in the coming days, not to speak of the risk of those variations spreading to other parts of the world,” the petition moved by healthcare analyst and activist Vikas Chowdhry warned.



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