India’s welfare ‘critically important’ to U.S.: Kamala Harris

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris. File.   | Photo Credit: Reuters

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris said that the welfare of India was critical to the United States. She highlighted the assistance the U.S. was sending India and offered her condolences to those who have lost people to the pandemic.

“As many of you know, generations of my family come from India. My mother was born and raised in India. And I have family members who live in India today. The welfare of India is critically important to the United States,” Ms. Harris said in a recorded message delivered at a diaspora event on COVID-19 relief for India.

The other speakers at the event were senior State Department official Ervin Massinga, who is involved with the U.S. effort in India, USAID official Anjali Kaur, Virginia State Senator Ghazala Hashmi, physician and volunteer Gunisha Kaur, entrepreneurs and philanthropists Lata Krishnan and M.R. Rangaswami.

“The surge of COVID-19 infections and deaths in India is nothing short of heartbreaking,” Ms. Harris said, as she offered her condolences.

“As soon as the dire nature of the situation became apparent, our Administration took action,” she said. While U.S. lawmakers and private citizens had been vocal for support to India as the second COVID-19 wave broke across the country, the Biden administration was widely criticized for being slow to act , with administration officials keeping largely silent days after other countries had stepped in to offer help to India .

However, since then, the U.S is sending , by its count, more than $100 million in assistance to India. Assistance of various forms has been mobilized on a massive scale by private citizens and the administration. There has been a public outpouring of grief and calls to help India, that have continued weeks into the outbreak in India.

“On Monday, April 26, President Joe Biden spoke with the Prime Minister to offer our support. By Friday, April 30, U.S. military members and civilians were delivering relief on the ground,” Ms. Harris said, outlining the material help that had been sent (N-95 masks, oxygen cylinders) and saying more was on the way.

“Meanwhile, we have announced our full support for suspending patents on COVID-19 vaccines – to help India and other nations vaccinate their people more quickly,” Ms. Harris said. Earlier this week the Biden administration said it would support a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines, an unprecedented move.

“At the beginning of the pandemic, when our hospital beds were stretched, India sent assistance. And today, we are determined to help India in its hour of need. We do this as friends of India, as members of the Asian Quad, and as part of the global community,” Ms. Harris said.

“This has hit everyone in the diaspora on a personal basis,” said Mr. Rangaswami , founder of Indiaspora, an organisation that works on diaspora engagement and philanthropy. “ Someone has lost a relative, a friend, a sibling, a child to this dreaded pandemic in India,” he said.

Both Ms. Krishnan, who founded the philanthropic organisation the American India Foundation, and Ms. Anjali Kaur spoke about the importance of transparency in the use of assistance.

‘Sub-granting’ of funds

Mr. Rangaswami said the government should consider permitting the “sub granting” of money, which was prohibited after the Foreign Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was amended last year. “In this time of need, I would definitely say that is a good thing for the Indian government to take at pretty quickly,” he said, calling for a limited-time waiver for last-mile organisations which were at greatest risk if they did not have access to sub-grants.

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Printable version | Jun 18, 2021 6:17:30 AM |

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