Indian foreign minister and US defence secretary to discuss security related matters. But pharma aid from the US has been New Delhi’s top priority in order to control infection rates.
Jaishankar arrived in the US on 24 May and initiated discussions with senior US officials till his departure today.
Among the many pressing issues that India has pushing with the US is the Covid vaccines production and a way to procure the vaccines. The issue of vaccine procurement was the key item on Jaishankar’s agenda and India hopes to get as much traction as it can with the US leadership and other stakeholders in order to fight the second wave of the pandemic back home.
Washington is already committed to distributing 80 million vaccines from its stockpile to countries in need and it is playing a leading role in assisting India in arresting its infection rates in what has been a devastating second wave of the pandemic. Along with vaccine aid comes support in the form of providing oxygen plants, concentrators, critical medicines like Remdesivir and also raw materials for vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India (SII), which is manufacturing Covishield.
The US has earlier supported India’s request, along with South Africa, on the TRIPS waiver at the WTO summit in Rome, but this fell short of expectations when a majority of the EU nations presenting a watered down document to vote against it.
South Africa and India formally requested the TRIPS Council to recommend the waiver to the WTO General Council in October 2020. The request was co-sponsored by Kenya, Eswatini, Mozambique, Pakistan, Bolivia, Venezuela, Mongolia, Zimbabwe, Egypt, the African Group (negotiating for 43 WTO members), and the Least Developed Countries Group (negotiating for 35 members).
The proponents of the waiver argued that “existing vaccine manufacturing capacities in the developing world remained unutilized because of IP barriers, and hence insufficient amounts of vaccines [are] being produced to end the pandemic.” The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) had also endorsed the spirit of the waiver.
The WTO director-general Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said it was clear that an IP waiver alone would not be enough to narrow the huge gap between rich and poor countries.
In the meanwhile, US Congressman Brad Sherman is set to meet Jaishankar to discuss various issues, including global vaccine production, and security issues in the Indo-Pacific.
Sherman will also be engaging with Taranjit Singh Sandhu, India’s ambassador to the US and other leaders concerned with the US-India relationship.
"This is an opportunity to discuss how the US can further help India as it continues to battle COVID19, global vaccine production, and security issues in the Indo-Pacific," Sherman tweeted.
According to Jaishankar, India will not put its foot off the pedal and will help shape some of the big debates “of our times.” His comments came after an enriching strategy session with India’s team at the UN which included India’s ambassador at the UN, TS Tirumurti.