US strategic and trade affairs experts feel that US and India will be key to future production of medical supplies to fight Covid-19 crisis.

 

In the United States, every seventh American is seen by an Indian doctor, which will soon be 6:1, signifying the contribution of the diaspora in the American healthcare system. Today, as the world fights the corona pandemic and the US becomes its worst victim, with over 100,000 deaths and counting, health diplomacy has emerged as the new unifier for the two democracies and the driver for an intense partnership promising a big relief to the world with a timely vaccine against the coronavirus.

President Donald Trump has acknowledged India’s role in fighting the corona pandemic for the globe. The US and Indian scientists and health researchers are collaborating intensively to make a breakthrough in producing a vaccine for corona. The US has already identified Indian pharmaceutical companies as one of the partners for mass productions to meet global demands.

While lauding India’s gesture to have allowed the export of 50 million hydroxychloroquine tablets to treat Covid-19 patients in America at his request, Trump on Friday announced that the US would donate ventilators to India. He specially mentioned his “close friend” and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the media as he said, “India has been so great and as you know your Prime Minister has been a very good friend of mine. I just got back a short while ago from India and we are very much together,” referring to his visit to New Delhi, Ahmedabad and Agra in February.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany was quick to add, “India has been a great partner to the US for quite some time…I am encouraged to hear of ventilators to India.”

The ventilators are the new “healthy” bridge for stronger Indo-American ties, which has so far been dominated by strategic partnerships in defence and economic spheres. Today, health has emerged as the third pillar of new intense Indo-US strategic relations.

The world has accorded India a new status for its handling of the corona pandemic not only in its own territory, but also for the PM Modi-led action plan to counter the spread of the pandemic, first in the SAARC region and then by shipping and air-lifting essential medical supplies and tablets worldwide, including to the US.

At this critical juncture, the US realises the importance of India and its vast experience in the pharma industry.

Strategic and trade affairs experts in Washington DC too feel that the US and India will be key to future production in medical supplies relevant to fight the Covid-19 crisis. India has emerged as a global capital of generic medicines. India can contribute to the world by producing cheap drugs, including vaccines. With US support in scientific advancement and technology at its command, a high quality medical research enabled to India can aid the mass production of vaccines and essential drugs in India, eventually helping the world facing a crisis like Covid-19 currently.

US-India collaboration can make it affordable and accessible to the world on a real-time basis. It’s a win-win for both the countries and the world as the partnership between the two democracies will yield a high productivity of well-researched, cost-effective drugs.

The healthy bonds between India and the US to fight many diseases go back to collaborations in combating diseases such as tuberculosis, cancer, HIV, eye diseases and environmental health research. There are over 200 ongoing NIH-funded projects in India, involving 20 institutes from the National Institute of Health (NIH) network and several eminent institutions in India.

A recent successful example of the co-operation is the development of the ROTAVAC against Rota virus. Such collaborations will be critical in the fight against Covid-19.

An enhanced medical supplies trade between the two nations will also come handy in fighting the Covid-19 crisis. Both are giants in their own realms in the health sector. India is the second largest exporter of pharmaceuticals to the United States and the United States is the largest exporter of medical devices to India. If both join hands by erasing the trade frictions, India and the US can fight China’s hegemony in the “sub-standard, unauthorised health supplies trade”. India has recently banned exports of certain active pharmaceutical ingredients, and banned imports of ventilators, surgical and patient masks from China. The US is reportedly considering new “Buy American” restrictions on pharmaceutical products to counter China. Many within the US health sector feel an opportunity awaits to harness for better Indo-US ties through the health trade and partnership in research and medical supplies production.

President Trump had also said that he hoped a Covid-19 vaccine would be available by the end of the year and announced to appoint a former head of vaccines at GlaxoSmithKline to spearhead the effort to fight the pandemic. He looks to India for a “joint fightback”.

The US is working with India on developing a vaccine for Covid-19, President Donald Trump said on Friday, praising Indian-Americans as “great scientists and researchers”.

“We have a tremendous Indian population in the United States and many of the people that you are talking about are working on the vaccine too. Great scientists and researchers,” Trump had said on Friday.

An early vaccine with a stamp of the US and India collaboration will mean more than a mere a healthy breakthrough, but a remedy for many diplomatic challenges, including those linked to China. India will stand to gain strategically and stamp its emergence as the new medical manufacturing hub worldwide, posing a direct challenge to China in Asia and Asia-Pacific region.

Let a new initiative in the US-India partnership begin—one that can contribute to a global response to Covid-19.