South Asia and Beyond

From Hands Off To Hands Out : US Covid Outreach To India

The story of how the US came to India’s aid during the coronavirus surge needs to be told. It all began with the slow rise in coronavirus cases in India followed by tweets from Adar Poonawalla of the Serum Institute, that he could not access raw materials for his vaccine because of US export controls.

As the coronavirus cases in India accelerated catching the central and state governments by surprise, appeals for help went out to Washington. But the initial response from Ned Pierce, US State Department spokesman, set social media on fire with its utter tastelessness and indifference. “It’s of course not only in our interest to see Americans vaccinated, it’s in the interest of the rest of the world.”

As the world responded to India’s request for help, Washington DC perhaps realising it was on the wrong foot, stepped in with offers of assistance. In the little over one week since Pierce’s remark, the US government has mobilised the despatch of tons of medical equipment ranging from oxygen cylinders and concentrators to vaccines to India.

The US India Strategic Partnership Forum is playing a key role in this effort, coordinating with the US and Indian governments through its members representing a wide array of American and India business groups. In this conversation with Stratnews Global, Mukesh Aghi, president and CEO, provides a detailed view of how his organisation works, the specialised networks it is able to tap into and the array of resources it can command.

While the initial US response may rankle in India, Aghi underscores the point that the speed with which the US has moved to help is an indication of its good intentions. The role the Strategic Partnership Forum points to the assets India and the US can bank upon going forward.

More in this conversation with Dr Mukesh Aghi, President and CEO, US India Strategic Partnership Forum.

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