COVID Aid

The second outbreak of corona catastrophe in our country is leading to the most tragic consequences. According to official statistics, 4.5 lakh new cases are diagnosed daily and about 4,000 deaths occur per day. All  deaths cannot be graded as inevitable. The disease is not as deadly as it appears. These deaths are caused by the failure of our system to prevent and treat the complications of the disease. It is true that it rapidly increased as a disaster because of the negligence of our rulers at center and state levels and their priorities being focused elsewhere than on the protection of people’s lives.

The people are facing untold misery due to non- availability of medicines, beds in the hospital, oxygen in emergencies and ventilators in severe cases. It must be considered a great human calamity if they are dying due to failure of healthcare system to treat them appropriately in the hour of need. The fact that they are unable to perform proper funerals for the dead, and that mass cremation is taking place in public places and next to the streets, seeing “no stock” boards for the vaccines is throwing people to burn with anger.

More than two weeks after oxygen shortages were reported across the country, and led to criticism of the government’s handling of the crisis, the External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar spoke to heads of all our missions across the world, made an appeal for international assistance to ramp up oxygen availability. The Indian embassies in countries where oxygen, equipment and medicines can be sourced, are speaking to respective governments to waive regulatory delays, and ensuring no disruptions in supply. However, the government is only seeking foreign government facilitation, not foreign aid for India’s needs, the MEA sources briefed the press.

“About 40 countries responded and declared their cooperation. Assistance from the leading economies of the world is expected to reach in multiple phases.  France this week is sending eight large Oxygen Generating Plants and a large number of items like respirators and electric syringe pushers. The French government is on track to send 5 liquid oxygen containers next week. Germany will make an oxygen production plant available for 3 months along with 120 ventilators and protective equipment like KN95 masks. Like other major partner countries, Australia too announced that it will send 500 ventilators, 1 million surgical masks, 500,000 P2 and N95 masks, and other protective items for the frontline health workers. Delhi is looking for oxygen-related items in the international market. Accordingly, 4 cryogenic oxygen containers were sourced from Singapore. Saudi Arabia has sent 80 MT of liquid oxygen which is currently en route via sea. Thailand and the United Arab Emirates have sent 4 and 6 cryogenic oxygen tanks.  800 oxygen concentrators were sent by Hong Kong, China. Ireland is on track to send 70 oxygen concentrators,” reads a report in The Hindu on 27th April.

After supplying Hydroxychloroquine, Remdesivir and COVID-19 vaccines to the rest of the world for the past one year, the Indian government had sought assistance from other nations to tackle the second wave of the pandemic that continues to ravage the country. The crippling shortage of oxygen and medical equipment nationwide is being met by humanitarian assistance from all over the world in the form of oxygen generation systems, distribution equipment such as cryogenic tankers, industrial and personal oxygen cylinders and concentrators. Help is pouring from big countries like USA, Russia, UK, Germany, France, to small countries like Bangladesh and Bhutan.

“The world must support India, as India helps the world,” Mr. Jaishankar tweeted, in a message believed to be meant for the US administration and other countries who are holding up exports of Covid-related supplies in order to prioritise their domestic requirements. In particular, the government is also worried about a shortfall in vaccine production due to regulatory issues, including from Germany, where many of the pharma companies are based” reports The Times of India on 30th April

First Policy shift in 16 yrs: India opens to foreign aid

In what marks a major shift in policy in 16 years, India has now started accepting gifts, donations and aid from foreign nations as the country reels under a massive shortage of oxygen, drugs and related equipment amid a surge in Covid cases.

Mr. Manmohan Singh, in the very first year of his prime ministership decided not to accept any more foreign aid during disasters. In the aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami, he famously said, “We feel that we can cope up with the situation on our own and we will take (their) help if needed.”. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government decided during the ‘India Shining’ years that it would not accept any assistance from abroad that was below $100 million. That set the policy and in the last 16 years, India has refused foreign aid after the Uttarakhand floods in 2013, the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, and Kashmir floods in 2014. As recently as August 2018, in the aftermath of the Kerala floods, when the state government said the UAE had offered Rs 700 crore as flood relief, the Centre had ruled out any international aid and had made it clear that it would meet the state’s requirements for relief and rehabilitation through “domestic efforts”. This position had led to a major row between the Centre and the state government.

“It is puzzling, therefore, that the present regime, the ideological successor to the Vajpayee government, is welcoming aid from anywhere and everywhere, that too in pittance.” Wonder the observers.

“For a people who had come to believe in the last seven years that theirs is a country which has joined the ranks of the great powers, this can be demoralising. It can also dent faith in ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’, the concept of self-reliance. For example, Canada has offered $10 million in cash funding and said “this funding will help meet some of the most urgent medical needs like purchasing and distributing essential supplies as well as supporting vital blood and ambulance services.” India has the largest foreign exchange reserves in the world, well in excess of half a trillion US Dollars. Instead of using those reserves to buy essential supplies, the government has chosen to sit on those reserves and accept small amounts as aid from several countries”-comments K.P.Nayar   a  foreign correspondent of money control.com

There are two other changes in approach towards foreign aid. India feels humiliated when China and Pakistan offered their help and told were waiting for positive answer from India. India resorted to a face-saving modus operandi, it has not permitted aid but granted “Procurement Permissions” to Indian companies to receive the requirements from China. It was briefed by sources from external affairs ministry that India now has “no conceptual problem” in procuring oxygen-related equipment and life-saving medicines from China, and it was added that on Pakistan, New Delhi has still not made up its mind on whether to accept aid — though it is unlikely to accept it. Besides, state governments are also free to procure these life-saving devices and medicines from foreign agencies, and the Central government will not come in the way.

“All elements add up to a significant change in New Delhi’s strategy, which usually stresses on self-reliance and its own emerging-power image. There was an indication of this shift last year when India decided to accept contributions from abroad, “irrespective of nationalities”, to the newly established PM-CARES fund”-reported The Indian Express

New Delhi, however, doesn’t acknowledge the change in approach, with sources pointing out that these are not donations or aid. They say India has not made an “appeal” for help, and that these are procurement decisions. “If some governments or private entities want to donate as a gift, we accept it with gratitude,” a source said. “The Indian government is asking all foreign governments and agencies to donate to the Indian Red Cross Society, after which an Empowered Group will take a call on  them”  wrote Mr.Shubhajit Roy,The Indian Express, 29th April

Among the countries that are sending support are the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, Ireland, Belgium, Romania, Luxembourg, Portugal, Sweden, Australia, Bhutan, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Thailand, Finland, Switzerland, Norway, Italy and the UAE.

If the countries that are friends have to help, just they express sympathy and send donations or grants.  But India is facing restrictions, many business regulations on raw materials, imposed by the so-called friendly nations and the government is unable to oppose it.  They could not reject aid that comes with conditions. But they are thrilled to say that this aid or imports received is a symbol of the international prestige of our rulers, and appreciation of their effective leadership. Sources also point out that “the gifts and donations from foreign governments have been coming as a return of favour for the emergency medical supplies — from hydroxychloroquine to vaccines — that India sent them in earlier stages of pandemic.” reports The Hindu.

With some philanthropic contribution, the imperialist forces and the big capitalist giants are using this pandemic calamity for their economic and political purposes.

From the U.S.  through USAID, 10 lakh Rapid Diagnostic Tests, 545 oxygen Concentrators, 16 lakh N95 masks, 457 oxygen cylinders, 440 regulators, 220 pulse oximeters and 1 deployable oxygen concentration system were received.  they said they were collecting a thousand oxygen concentrators, The Red Cross Society has received 550 concentrators, 10 lakh rapid kits and 25 lakh masks and 1.25 lakh Remedisiver   injections.  From England three units of 18 tons oxygen generators that could produce 500 liters of oxygen per minute, 2,008 oxygen concentrators, 1220 ventilators, 900 cylinders were received as a part of Corporate donation: British Oxygen Company announced a gift of 5,000 cylinders. 3,746 have touched down so far. Oxygen concentrators, lung ventilation equipment, bedside monitors, medicines, including Coronavir, and other essential pharmaceutical items totalling 20 tonnes. From Russia 20 oxygen concentrators, 75 ventilators, 150 bedside monitors and medicines totalling 22 tonnes were received. Australia sent as many as 1,056 ventilators, 43 oxygen concentrators and Switzerland gave 600 oxygen concentrators and 50 ventilators.

After a call for support from India, the European Union has invoked the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, which is coordinating between member nations to send aid to India. Over 100 million euros worth of medical equipment and medication was sent to India. France sent eight hospital-level oxygen generators, each providing year-long oxygen for 250 beds, liquid oxygen for 2,000 patients for five days, 28 ventilators and equipment for ICUs, making up 28 tonnes. Germany sent a massive high-capacity oxygen production plant, set to produce 4 lakh litres of oxygen daily, 296 ventilators and 25000 vials of Remdesivir along with other medical equipment. Many countries extended their helping hand with aid ranging from few personal oxygen cylinders to cryogenic tankers.  The help came from countries like Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, kazakisthan to middle east countries. The Indian community living in different parts of the globe are also quick enough to send help from masks to medicines and equipment.  The UNICEF sent 10,000 oxygen concentrators, 10,00,000 masks and vaccine storage cold chain equipment. The World Health Organization has sent some tents and beds. WHO offered that it could provide medical professionals. Oxygen generators and ventilators came from the United Nations.

Major consignments received on 12 and 13th May 2021 from Indonesia, Luxembourg, Oman, South Korea, UK, USISPF, Finland and Greece that include 1,506 oxygen concentrators, 434 oxygen cylinders and 58 ventilators (BiPAP/CPAP). (Mint, e.paper reported on 14th may)

Strategies in Aid

India has received significant donations and aid for medical supplies and equipment from different countries and organisations world over. As per official record, since April 27, to May 7th cumulatively, 10,796 oxygen concentrators, 12,269 oxygen cylinders; 19 oxygen generation plants; 6,497 ventilators, more than 4.2 lakh Remdesivir vials have been received in India as global aid, have been dispatched to states and territories so far. The government does not give out daily data on how much each state or UT has received.

There is dignity, even contentment, in accepting aid that is effusively given. It does not feel like charity. Aid need not be accepted at the cost of opportunity.

Initially US categorically declared that they will consider Indian requests for vaccines only after their national interests are fulfilled and needs of the United States are met with. This policy drew caustic criticism. High-level personalities like National Defense Advisor Doval and Foreign Minister Jayashankar had to request and discuss for relief with the US.  “Smooth and efficient” supply chains are opened only after many deliberations including the one between Joe Biden and Modi on 26th April. The much delay in response of USA to India’s call for help faced much criticism domestically and globally too. USA announced its help much later after countries like Russia, UK, France, Germany, Singapore and UAE announced their help. In contrast China initiated the proposals and offered to assist India in Covid calamity but India is cold.

The Gulf countries have come forward to supply enough oxygen to India for six months, which is facing severe oxygen shortages.  Arab Emirates supply oxygen in liquid form through special cryogenic tankers, on a commercial basis by ships. India has asked for commercial oxygen rather than help. So far, the purchase has been carried out by the Companies of Adani and Ambani. Now Gail and IOC have entered the field. In return for this expansion, India has issued orders to its oil companies to buy oil without any reduction of quantity from Saudi Arabia.

Thanking those who have helped in distress is a minimum human culture, but our rulers are not displaying this virtue towards all. If our neighbors Pakistan and China declare aid first, Indian hierarchy is not prepared to accept it. Moreover, they were treated as enemy states and were accused of offering help to humiliate us. It seems to be a disgrace to our rulers to get help from China.

They have accepted the help of many countries whether big or small, including oxygen from Bhutan and Inj. Remdesivir from Bangladesh, but feel disgusted to accept help from the largest economy of the world.  The media has been accusing China of creating obstacles to the in -coming help from other countries. Even film actors have joined the voice in this anti-China campaign, by echoing the American allegation that “China is blocking consignments of critical covid19 supplies to India” whereas Chinese authorities are providing convenience in customs clearance and transportation. Indian authorities are closing eyes to them who offer assistance and looking with wide open eyes for help from the West.

In the past, there had been a campaign to boycott Chinese goods and cut off business relations with China. The government also took some steps in public, to support these intentions. But in reality, business with China did not stop in the year 2020. There was a $7767 crore business between the two countries (in 2019, the business was $8547 crore.) At the same time, our business with the United States was $7595 crore, almost in same range as is with China.  In spite of conflicts, bloodshed and national calamities and racked up anti-china frenzy, the business with China has not decreased significantly.  This means that while making financial transactions and making their profits on one hand they have increased the anti-China frenzy among the people on other hand. It is true that this duality harbors a deep political interest and strategy

In todays globalized markets, it is very natural that countries depend on each other for exports and imports.  it should also be seen as natural to do business with a country which has an economic benefit. There is no need to link trade with politics. Business with China is more profitable and necessary for us than with the United States or Europe. Both have grown this interdependency.  But our rulers, without conceding to the reality, display bogus nationalism and hypocrisy. While receiving aid or imports from China on one side it is kept submerged from people’s knowledge. Even the major media is not referring to it with due significance. But a very insignificant difference also is magnified and printed in bold letters.

CHINA OFFERS  

On May 2, Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message to our Prime Minister, their Foreign Minister Wang communicated to our Foreign Minister Shri Jaya Shankar that they would help India in the face of catastrophe due to outbreak of Corona. The next day, Mr. Wang spoke to Mr. Jaya Shankar and reiterated the same thing. After the conflict at the borders, they took the initiative and expressed their goodwill. At this stage, the Chinese Ambassador to India, Shri Sun V Dong, also revealed what help they were providing.

According to Chinese Customs Administration statistics, China has provided 5000 ventilators, 21569 oxygen generators, 2.14crore masks and 3800 tons of medicines from this April. Some drug producers and other logistic companies have voluntarily decided to work overtime and complete orders from India without taking a holiday in China. There were reports in the media that they said, ‘Our India customers are looking forward to these items that are needed to save the lives of their people’. Suppliers in China say they have received orders for about 25,000 oxygen concentrators in the meantime and they have been working on it. In the past two weeks, 61 cargo flights have been in operation from China to India.

“For the past few weeks, flights from China to India have been operating essential medicines. A plane carrying oxygen generators and other medical equipment left China’s Tian Jane at 11.15 am this morning,” said the Chinese ambassador on May 2. In a series of tweets, the ambassador said the customs department was making adequate arrangements to ensure that there was no delay in the movement of cargo flights with medical supplies and tools. He also gave an e-mail address and declared that he could help Indian importers and hard-working people to the best of his ability if they brought it to his notice.

If the Chinese authorities and producers adopt such a cooperative attitude, our government and the media are not even showing the least friendship. The Indian press writes that these supplies are commercial but not humanitarian. The Chinese officials pronounced “we look forward to your reply that you will accept our assistance”.

In the meantime, people are receiving Chinese oxygen equipment through private companies, agencies and Indians in China. China is the largest producer in the world of Oxygen generators and concentrators and hence people themselves are buying through e-markets such as Taobao.

Discrimination 

Staff at diplomatic missions of many countries in Delhi fell a prey to corona.  It is reported that The Philippine Embassy and the New Zealand High Commission approached some private companies and Congress volunteers, not the Government of India, for the likes of oxygen cylinders. The Prime Minister of Australia announced temporary restrictions on travel from India and warned that no one from India would be allowed into his country even if they are Australian citizens. They would be imprisoned if they did so. The US has imposed several bans and restrictions on the persons coming from India to enter the US because they carry very dangerous strains of covid virus.   This points out how the situation in India is perceived internationally.

People do not understand why our government keeps China away from the relief programs. Is it prudent to reject a major force of the world and not to take assistance from the second largest economy? It is expected to normalize relations with China, in spite of the unresolved differences between the two countries, and raise a concerted fight against the corona pandemic. This has been proposed by China more than once and is offering its help. People should take a closer look at why our rulers are running to the post and pillar of the dominant western countries who are implicated in their business cycle and thereby plundering the resources of our country.

Vaccine is the best weapon to curb the coronary pandemic. That is why rich countries buy and store vaccine doses beyond their needs depending on population. This competition and holding of vaccines by rich countries deprived vaccines to many poor and middleclass countries.  They cannot afford a higher price. China has developed low-cost vaccines and has vaccinated about 30 crore of its population with them successfully. In spite of positive reports after several stages of clinical studies in several parts of the world, the western trade sectors are indulged to defame the Chinese developed vaccines as low efficient and tried to cast doubts on those vaccines. The fact remains that WHO has authorized its use and almost 85 countries are seeking those vaccines. China promised 10 crore doses of vaccine to WHO’s Covax scheme. This contribution greatly paved the way for an equitable distribution of vaccines among the developing nations.

As part of the competition against China, our government has resorted to “vaccine diplomacy” and sent 7 00,000 doses to nearly 90 countries before we are vaccinated.  Now, the situation has worsened and we are not vaccinated, and reached a stage to import vaccines. The failure of Indian companies to fulfil their promise of supplying the vaccines not only crashed the Indian immunization programme but several poor countries are thrown in to chaos. The impact of restrictions imposed by USA (though released later), and Germany on the export of certain raw materials used in vaccine manufacture in India cannot be overestimated for this debacle.

If there are not enough vaccines in our country or people are eagerly waiting for them, the British government is moving vaccines, threatening to take legal action, making excuses for agreements made with them in the past, with an eye on our serum institute products. Moreover, they are being moved partly from India to England through some attractive schemes, in consultation with the Serum Institute.   The 24,000-pound valued-research and production facility is being set up there, and it is expected that $1billion will be traded in the entire affair.

On the other hand, India is daydreaming that Britain will ally the quad alliance in its global strategy of curbing China and hence will help India in a big way and sustain it too. But Britain is shifting away Serum institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturing company. This is bound to be a constituent part of their strategy to build a global Britain, plundering the resources of their old colonies. The pride of Mr. Modi is satisfied with an invitation to participate as a guest in G7 summit. That is what is given to India.

The raw materials for the covishield vaccine manufactured in serum institute of India are imported from the U.S. But the slogan ‘America first” comes in the way, the raw materials were banned for export by revoking the Defense production Act by Joe Biden from February this year. The production of vaccines in India was badly hampered, and the restrictions were not removed, even in the course of observing that things were deteriorating in India.  The United States did not lift this ban until late and the covishield vaccine that they had stored in huge quantities was not offered to us. Of late US president promises 2 crore doses of covishield from their stock but no timeline is specified for actual use in India.

Some restrictions were relaxed recently which facilitate export of multipored filters useful in vaccine production.  This humanitarian act required so much of pleading and persuasion, that at every step they showed how much dependent we are.  still this simple act is prompted as a great act of generosity and triumph of our government. Our rulers are overwhelmed with gratitude.

India and South Africa are pleading that many organizations in the world are capable and will manufacture the covid vaccine if the Intellectual Property Protection (IP) regulations imposed by the World Trade Organization are waived temporarily.  Production of vaccines by several manufacturing units in addition to the inventors can be ramped up and hence hundred other countries support this proposal. Big Companies who possess patent rights do not agree to this, as their profits will be reduced. The monopoly of big corporate companies is being safeguarded in production and distribution of vaccines. The political and economic interests of imperialism are being prioritized instead of humanity, and the word aid became meaningless. If America announces that it will support the demand for removing patent rights, it is only to act smart and regain at least a part of its dwindling influence over so many countries.

Look at another thing. The US State Department is trying to sell six P81 fighter jets to India at this time, which the Government of India asked for 10 fighter jets in 2019, but then narrowed its proposal to six aircraft, based on the then proposal, and now the US government has approved a sale worth $242 crore this week.

Speaking at the European Commission meeting on April 21, German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed anger that EU had helped India to become the world’s biggest pharmaceutical producer today, and did not develop the pharmaceutical industry in Europe, and that it was a big mistake. She says that India is now in crisis with the highest number of covid cases, that it has not supplied the covid medicines needed by Europe, “we are worried whether the pharmaceutical products will still come to us?” that India cannot be hoped for a quick recovery soon. That was the concern for them and solution she suggests that industries in Europe should be encouraged to improve production than extending help to Indian industry.” detailed Hindusthan Times on 24th April. This is the attitude of western democracies towards India in the hour of need.  “We will continue working with German partners to resolve supply chain bottlenecks faced by companies manufacturing Covid vaccine and medicines. India’s uninterrupted vaccine production capacity is central to the success of global vaccination efforts and global economic recovery,” the German Embassy said in a statement, as per The Hindu on 24th April.

Should ‘t we understand these polemics?

The imperialists see every occasion as an opportunity to amass profits, the Indian capitalists do not have the freedom to protect our national interests. His power is entrusted to serve the imperialist master. 

It is as a result of the class nature that our rulers are inflamed by anti-Chinese feelings.  In the pandemic state also, hatred and discrimination are being practiced towards China. Our rulers are tied down to the Quad Group under the leadership of USA. We swallow all the humiliation and accolade their ‘help’. To contain China globally is more important for them than to save Indian lives.

Will the patriot Indians let it continue?

Dr S. Jatin  Kumar is a practicing orthopedic surgeon. He is associated with India China friendship Association as joint secretary Telangana state unit


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One Comment

  1. Satya Vara Prasad Arundhati says:

    “Foreign policy of a country is a sum total of compulsions of its internal policy”.This is the most often repeated adage.Author has elucidated and brought out this in a very clear manner in this laudable article.Can the present government shed it’s nationalist and jingoist rhetoric.Answer is unambiguous no.On the contrary it is about to start “Door darshanam International”with the intention of whitewashing it’s overseas image.
    Ancient wisdom tells us that “A neighbouring well wisher is better than a distant friend”.This government is hopelessly enmeshed in its foreign policy and is dependent on QUAD.No wonder it is refusing to accept hand of friend ship extended by its neighbours.