- The Washington Times - Monday, April 26, 2021

President Biden on Monday pledged “America’s steadfast support for the people of India” in a call with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his country battles a coronavirus surge that is spiraling into a major health catastrophe.

Mr. Biden detailed material support the U.S. is sending to India, including oxygen supplies, raw materials for vaccines and therapeutics.  

“Prime Minister Modi expressed appreciation for the strong cooperation between both countries. The two leaders resolved that the United States and India will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the effort to protect our citizens and the health of our communities,” the White House said in a description of the call.

India has a relatively young population and avoided the worst of the COVID-19 crisis earlier in the pandemic. Now, variant-fueled transmission is setting global records for cases — 350,000 per day — and forcing cremation centers to run around the clock. Shortfalls in oxygen supplies and accidental leaks caused some patients to suffocate, adding to families’ desperation.

The U.S. aid is part of a global scramble to help India. The European Union is offering oxygen supplies and Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Russia are offering assistance.



The India package, which includes raw materials for vaccine production, amounts to the Biden administration’s biggest foray to date into virus aid and diplomacy. 

Mr. Biden loaned 4 million unused doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Canada and Mexico but plans to share up to 60 million more, as they become available, amid calls to assist the global community. 

The U.S. enjoys a surfeit of other vaccines compared to other countries, and the AstraZeneca vaccine is not yet approved for use in the U.S.

“We do not need to use AstraZeneca in our fight against COVID over the next few months,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

She said the Food and Drug Administration will have to review doses for safety before they are exported.

Foreign press accounts said the U.S. administration was slow on the draw as India’s crisis worsened, only to be “jolted” into action over the weekend.

“At the time of writing, Washington was still getting its act together in terms of supplies and logistics,” the Times of India said in a Monday piece.

Communist China also had a field day, with the Global Times saying images of the Indian crisis alarmed Chinese citizens but “more shocking news to them is the U.S.’s indifference and selfishness when asked to help Indian people who are suffering.”

The aid package comes as Mr. Biden tries to foster relations with an Indo-Pacific “Quad,” which also includes Japan and Australia, to check China’s ambitions in the region.

Mr. Biden hosted Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the White House this month and expressed support for his efforts to host the Summer Games in Tokyo. Australia, meanwhile, has been praised for handling COVID-19 on its own through strict travel measures and quick isolation of known infections.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin joined the chorus of U.S. officials expressing alarm at the situation in India.

“I directed the [Defense Department] to use every resource at our disposal, within our authority, to support U.S. interagency efforts to provide India’s frontline healthcare workers with the materials they need,” he tweeted late Sunday.

The private sector is also offering help.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said he was “devastated to see the worsening Covid crisis in India” in a tweet that pledged $18 million in aid from the company.

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