Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 in the Indian Ocean wreaked havoc in the littoral countries from east coast of India to Indonesia immediately resulted in the formation of an international alliance for disaster management. The main aim of this alliance is to provide immediate humanitarian relief to the affected people, and this alliance later became an important grouping called as the Quad.
The Tsunami did not just bring a wave of policy changes at the international level, but it also domestically marked the watershed moment for India’s disaster aid policy that India will not accept aid from foreign sources. In the aftermath of a devastating tsunami, the then Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh famously said, “We feel that we can cop up with the situation on our own, and we will take their help if needed.”
UPA government stressed that India is an emerging power and pretty much self-reliant in handling disasters, and since then India has refused foreign aid during calamities like the 2013 Uttarakhand floods, the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, and the Kashmir floods in 2014 until the coronavirus pandemic hit the world.
In a significant shift from the erstwhile policy of not accepting foreign aid in 16 years, India has now started accepting fiscal aid, donations, and gifts from other countries as the nation is battling to contain the spiralling COVID-19 cases and deaths, and reeling under a massive shortage of oxygen cylinders, drugs, and related medical supplies like oxygen beds, ventilators etc.
Amid a massive rise in infections in the second wave of the pandemic. Two other changes in approach signals this policy shift: India now has “no conceptual problem” in procuring oxygen-related and lifesaving equipment as well as medicines from China; the Central Government will not create any obstacle if state governments wish to procure life-saving supplies from foreign parties.
India will get assistance from over 40 countries, primarily oxygen-related equipment such as oxygen concentrators, respirators, and large quantities of liquid oxygen and drugs to help in its fight against the “unprecedented second wave" of Covid-19 infections, Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Thursday. The foreign countries are rushing critical emergency use equipment to enable India counter the deadly second wave.
The United States will support India in providing raw materials for the production of vaccine after a minor setback in that area consequently resulting in President Biden promising PM Modi to aid in their best capacity.
In that regard, US will provide supply of filters that are necessary in the production of Covishield vaccine. US is also expected to release at least 10 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine after the authorities gave a green signal for export to India. In all, India may receive a larger share of 60 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine that the US will supply to the world. The White House has said the US will send aid supplies worth if $100 million, and a part of it has already reached India last month.
In addition to vaccines and oxygen-related items, agencies of India and the US will collaborate more closely in the coming months to defeat the virus.
Under the Quad Vaccine Initiative, US Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is funding a substantial expansion of manufacturing capability for Biological E Ltd, a vaccine manufacturer in India. It is expected that Biological E may produce 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by 2022.
Assistance from the leading economies of the world is expected to reach in multiple phases with France 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.
Germany will make an oxygen production plant available for 3 months along with 120 ventilators and protective equipment like KN95 mask.
The European Commission, on Tuesday, also said that it is preparing to ship oxygen, medicine, and essential equipment to India under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
According to reports, these would include 700 oxygen concentrators, 1 oxygen generator, and 365 ventilators from Ireland, 9,000 doses of Remdesivir, 80 oxygen concentrators, and 75 oxygen cylinders from Romania, 58 ventilators from Luxembourg, over 5,500 Remdesivir vials, 20,000 litres of oxygen from Portugal, and 120 ventilators from Sweden.
“This support has been made in line with the coordinated effort by EU Member States currently underway to pool their resources in responding to tackle the alarming epidemiological situation in India,” a statement from Brussels read. Further support is also expected from EU heavyweights France and Germany.
Saudi Arabia has sent 80 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen to India as the country is running low on supplies due to an unprecedented spike in coronavirus cases. A flight from the UAE was expected to land with 140 metric tonnes of liquid oxygen. An Indian Air Force C-17 aircraft transported six cryogenic oxygen containers from Dubai, and is expected to airlift six more for the Adani group. Bahrain was to send a shipment of 40 metric tonnes of oxygen that Indian Navy ships were to bring back. Kuwait will supply 185 metric tonnes of liquid medical oxygen, and 1,000 cylinders.
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.
Accordingly, 4 cryogenic oxygen containers were sourced from Singapore. Thailand have sent 4 cryogenic oxygen tanks, and 800 oxygen concentrators were sent by Hong Kong, China. Ireland is on track to send 70 oxygen concentrators.
Two Russian flights with oxygen concentrators, lung ventilation equipment, bedside monitors, medicines, and other essential medical items landed in India. "The Russian Federation decided to send humanitarian assistance to India in the spirit of the special and privileged strategic partnership between our two countries as well as in the context of our anti #COVID19 cooperation," said Nikolay Kudashev, Ambassador of Russia to India.
Karina Gould, minister of international development, announced $10 million in funding for humanitarian assistance to the Canadian Red Cross to support the Indian Red Cross Society’s response to the devastating situation unfolding in India, according to a statement from the Canadian high commission in New Delhi.
The article is written by Navjit Singh who is an Political Science and International Relation student.