New Delhi: After Russia, the US, and the European Union had taken the lead, China, which wants to be counted as a “responsible” global player, has also stepped up supplies to enable India to counter a devastating second wave of Covid 19.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla said at a media conference on Thursday (April 29) that Indian companies are also sourcing some essential medical supplies and equipment from China to fight the pandemic.
“We know that a number of companies in India have been sourcing products. I mentioned that companies who have been active in sourcing our priority requirements, be it oxygen generators, concentrators, or pharmaceuticals. Some of it is being sourced from China,” Shringla said.
“Cargo flights are also operating and some of the equipment is coming in. But I think this is part of meeting the requirements in as effective a manner as possible,” he explained.
China`s entry into the Indian relief effort, however, appeared to generate the impression of a damage control exercise.
Analysts say that China lifted commercial barriers for essential supplies only out of fear that it would lose the perception war about its role in a larger international effort to mitigate the crisis in India, which had, during the first wave of the pandemic stood out for its largest in support of the impacted countries.
On April 27, US President Joe Biden said the country was sending a whole series of help that India needed for its battle against the pandemic.
“We are sending immediately a whole series of help that he needs, including providing for those Remdesivir and other drugs that are able to deal with this,” Joe Biden told reporters at a White House news conference on Tuesday (April 27).
The US also agreed to transfer the raw materials needed to make vaccines to India, several days after Serum Institute`s CEO Adar Poonawalla tweeted to President Biden requesting to lift the embargo on their export.
The Russians too were quickly in the fray to support India at the time of its need.
During a conversation of Wednesday (April 27) between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Russian side decided to fly 22 tonnes of emergency supplies to fight Covid-19, to India.
By first light on Thursday (April 29), two planeloads marshaled by the Russian emergencies ministry had already landed in New Delhi.
It was at this point that the Chinese began to get their act together. On Wednesday (April 28), Chinese ambassador to India, Sun Weidong tweeted that “Chinese medical suppliers are working overtime on orders from India, at least 25,000 orders for oxygen concentrators in recent days. Cargo planes are under plan for medical supplies. Chinese customs will facilitate relevant process.”
The reference to “cargo planes” was apparently meant to bury the “scandal” of Sichuan Airlines refusing to fly its cargo planes directly to India with essential supplies, citing fears of contracting the virus.
On Thursday (April 29), Chinese state councillor and foreign minister Wang Yi, also got into the act of perception management. In a letter to External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, Wang assured his counterpart that, “anti-pandemic materials produced in China are entering India at a faster pace to help India fight the epidemic”.
He further added that “The Chinese side will continue to do its utmost to provide support and help according to the needs of India.”
Earlier on Monday the logistics arm under Sichuan Airlines decided to resume cargo services to India.
“We are re-evaluating the original plan of suspending cargo services to India, and actively discussing a new plan to guarantee cargo services to the region,” the company said in a reply sent to the Global Times on Monday (April 26).
Ambassador Sun also sought to create the impression that there has been no interruption in Chinese supplies to India.
Without mentioning any specific dates, he tweeted on Thursday (April 29), “Since this April, #China has supplied more than 5000 ventilators, 21569 oxygen generators, over 21.48 million masks & around 3800 tons of medicines to #India, according to statistics of the General Administration of Customs of China.”
It now remains to be seen whether China`s belated attempt at course correction will yield positive results in the long run.