Begin typing your search...

Of friends in need and friends in deed

Last week, India learned a lesson the hard way when the US defended its move to place restrictions on the export of key raw materials essential for the manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines.

Of friends in need and friends in deed


Reiterating its America First policy, India was told that the Biden administration’s No 1 priority was to take care of the needs of the US, which has been hit harder than any other nation in the world, with over half a million deaths. The nation had invoked its Defence Production Act which prioritises the export of certain materials used in manufacturing vaccines.

Later, ostensibly under intense pressure from the US Chambers of Commerce, Indian Americans, as well as lawmakers, the Biden administration gave the green signal for the export of such raw materials. Supplies of therapeutics, ventilators, rapid diagnostic test kits, and PPE will also be made available to India on a priority basis.

It may be recalled that earlier in April last year, then US President Donald Trump had threatened India with retaliation if the nation failed to export the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to America, as part of its efforts to treat those affected by COVID-19. The nation had exported 50 mn tablets to the US, after which 68 new licences had been issued to manufacturers in Gujarat to amp up the production of HCQ, a majority of the licences being meant for exports.

On Monday, the nation found itself in a distressing juncture again as 3.52 lakh new cases and 2,812 deaths were reported, a statistic accelerated by the shortage of oxygen in some states. The unavailability of drugs like Remdesivir, 11 lakh injections of which India had exported over the past six months has also adversely hit the population. Thankfully, India’s vaccine diplomacy has earned it some brownie points. The Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) is airlifting 23 mobile oxygen generation plants from Germany that will be set up in AFMS hospitals. Russia has offered to supply the nation with 3-4 lakh Remdesivir injections every week, as well as oxygen and emergency doses of the Sputnik V vaccine. Australia, which is a member of the Quad partnership, that includes the US, India, and Japan, has also pledged its support.

India’s estranged neighbour China had also extended an unlikely olive branch and said it was in talks with New Delhi to offer assistance. But on Monday, Beijing did a U-turn by suspending cargo flights that were rushing COVID-19 medical supplies including the coveted oxygen concentrators to India, stating the sudden changes in the epidemic in India, and the intent to reduce the number of imported cases.

A lot could be said about India’s handling of the COVID crisis, and the diplomatic tightrope it has walked over the past year. Having declared itself as a global pharmacy, India took a stand for countries that did not have the resources to meet the challenges of vaccinations head-on. Altruistically choosing the path of vaccine diplomacy, India exported 6.6 crore doses of vaccines to 95 countries. But now, India is in dire need of vaccines, oxygen, and the drugs necessary to fight COVID. This might just be the time for the nation to put Indians first, and above all, reaffirm its ties with nations, who are our friends in need.

Visit to explore our interactive epaper!

Download the DT Next app for more exciting features!

Click here for iOS

Click here for Android

Next Story