Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden spoke on the phone on Monday to discuss the COVID-19 outbreak in India and U.S. assistance to the country. The conversation comes a day after Mr Biden and some of his cabinet publicly expressed solidarity with India and the U.S. government promised assistance to India in its fight against the pandemic.
“Had a fruitful conversation with @POTUS @JoeBiden today. We discussed the evolving COVID situation in both countries in detail. I thanked President Biden for the support being provided by the United States to India,” Mr Modi said on Twitter.
Their conversation “also underscored the importance of smooth and efficient supply chains of vaccine raw materials and medicines,” the Prime Minister said.
Significantly, a readout of the call from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) also said that Mr Modi informed Mr Biden of “India's initiative at the WTO for a relaxation in the norms of the Agreement on TRIPS to ensure quick and affordable access to vaccines and medicines for developing countries.”
A group of ten Senators had written to Mr Biden earlier in April asking him to support a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights at the WTO that would enable the production of COVID-19 therapeutics, diagnostics and vaccines around the world.
The White House readout of the call does not mention the TRIPS initiative.
“The President pledged America’s steadfast support for the people of India who have been impacted by the recent surge in COVID-19 cases,” the White House readout said.
“President Biden conveyed solidarity with India and affirmed that the United States was determined to support India’s efforts by quickly deploying resources such as therapeutics, ventilators and identifying sources of raw materials to be made available for the manufacture of Covishield vaccines,” the PMO readout said.
The Prime Minister “mentioned India’s commitment to contain the COVID-19 pandemic globally through Vaccine Maitri, and its participation in COVAX and the Quad Vaccine Initiatives,” as per the PMO.
Mr Modi and Mr Biden agreed to remain in touch and directed their officials to coordinate closely on the COVID-19 issue, the PMO said.