Blinken promises to ‘rapidly deploy additional support’ to India

His remarks came after the Biden administration faced growing criticism for not doing and saying enough about the situation in India

April 25, 2021 10:37 am | Updated 09:34 pm IST

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken reacted publicly to the COVID-19 wave ravaging India for the first time on Saturday night saying the U.S. “would rapidly deploy additional support” as the Biden administration faced growing criticism for not doing and saying enough about the situation.

“Our hearts go out to the Indian people in the midst of the horrific COVID-19 outbreak. We are working closely with our partners in the Indian government, and we will rapidly deploy additional support to the people of India and India’s healthcare heroes,” Mr. Blinken tweeted on Saturday evening, after the Biden administration had been widely criticised over the last week for not adequately supporting India, which is in need of vaccines and oxygen.

On Friday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki had said the U.S. and Indian officials and experts were in touch and that the U.S. “offered its deepest sympathy to the people of India” and remarked on the historically high levels of health assistance the U.S. had given India. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Mr. Blinken spoke last week and discussed the COVID-19 situation but the State Department was unwilling to get into any details of the call beyond the readout.

Some, like Serum Institute of India CEO Adar Poonawalla, had called on the Biden administration to lift embargoes on the export of vaccine raw materials. Others, like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce , Asia policy specialists and lawmakers, called on the U.S. to donate vaccines — such as from its stockpile of 30-40 million doses of unused AstraZeneca shots.

The administration has denied that there is an “outright ban” on such exports. However, a consequence of the U.S.’s Defense Production Act (emergency powers that allow the government to control private sector production decisions) is that the federal government purchase orders have to be prioritised over foreign orders.

“We are currently sitting on close to 40 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in the U.S. stockpile, a stockpile which we’re not using…I respectfully but strongly call on the Biden Administration to release millions of AstraZeneca vaccine doses to countries hardest-hit by the spread of COVID-19, including India, Argentina, and potentially others,” Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi, a Democrat, said on Saturday.

In March, a deal was struck in which 4 million of these would be shared with Canada and Mexico. The administration has not announced plans since to send more such vaccines abroad.

@POTUS please speak to @PMOIndia and see if we can lend 10M doses of AZ vaccine like tomorrow. We must help now!” tweeted Shekar Narasimhan, founder Super PAC (Political Action Committee) Asian American Pacific Islander Victory Fund.

Some Democrats — including Democratic primary candidates, Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — had asked Mr. Biden to support a waiver of intellectual property rights to facilitate the production of COVID-19 therapeutics globally.

India has begun receiving supplies from other countries. Singapore sent Oxygen cylinders on Saturday and the UAE, Russia and the E.U. are in the process of sending medical supplies. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had tweeted a message of “solidarity with the people of India” on Saturday.

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