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Potency of India-US ties displayed in Jaishankar-Blinken interface
The two officials waded through issues of bi-lateral cooperation pertaining to the Indo Pacific, Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad), Afghanistan, Myanmar, UNSC, investment, jobs and tech transfer and, more importantly, the supply of vaccines to India.
in what is being seen as another strong reflection of US-India bilateral ties which seems to be getting more robust with every engagement between the two countries.
A host of issues were on the agenda during the meeting - various aspects of bilateral cooperation including , , , , matters – and this goes to reflect the substance behind each interface between the administrations of New Delhi and Washington.
One of the main items on Jaishankar’s checklist was the discussion on supplies of vaccines and this was also addressed by the two officials – the topic of access and supply was examined given India’s urgent need for vaccines to fight off a debilitating second wave of the pandemic back home.
"Also focused on . Appreciated strong solidarity expressed by US at this time. Today's talks have further solidified our strategic partnership and enlarged our agenda of cooperation," Jaishankar tweeted.
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The Indian foreign minister has concluded a five-day assignment to the US. His first official visit since assumed office at the White House, and by all accounts the trip has brought some good returns.
Jaishankar, who has spent the past week in the United States seeking help to deal with India's coronavirus crisis, told reporters while standing with Blinken at the State Department, that India was grateful to the US administration for strong support and solidarity.
“In the early days of COVID-19, India was there for the US, something we will never forget. Now we want to make sure that we are there for and with India, said Blinken. "US and India are working together on so many of the most important challenges of our time -- one that are having a profound impact on our citizens.
We're united in confronting COVID-19 together," said Blinken.
A large part of India’s efforts to contain the pandemic is directly linked towards ensuring that its economy, which was turning the corner after emerging from the first wave, amidst a nationally imposed lockdown, is brought back to stability. Jaishankar had discussions with several US corporate leaders on how to leverage India’s equity, which by all accounts is still relatively stable, given recent performances at the stock market and its signing of extensive trade deals with the and , to increase investment, create jobs and transfer technology.
FDI from US to India up by 20%
According to Mukesh Aghi, who heads the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, "The outcome of this meeting was that the commitment of US companies for India with India has become stronger during this COVID-19 crisis. They have their own employees but if you look at the contribution, it is not specific to their company employees but to India itself.” Despite its internal challenges with the pandemic data reveals that interest in investment and growth continues as the FDI investment in India from US companies went up by 20 per cent, compared to last year. Cashing in on these strong sentiments is enabling job creation and routes to enable transfer of technology.
On the topic of supplying vaccines to India, Aghi asserted that, “When we talk to folks like Pfizer Moderna Johnson and Johnson, they are in discussion with the Government of India, to see how they can supply this vaccine into India. Johnson and Johnson, under the QUAD partnership has agreed to manufacture a billion doses of their vaccine in partnership with Bio E, and to be distributed across the Indo-Pacific region itself, whereas Moderna and Pfizer is a much more complex mRNA technology, which is difficult to transfer because you don't have the equipment, you don't have the train manpower, the manufacturer, so they are focused on expanding the capacity. And Pfizer will take the capacity of 1.2 billion doses this year, By next year it will be over 2 billion doses, and they plan to export that to rest of the world right now."
Vaccine issues need to be addressed
The sentiment behind supplying vaccines to India remained strong during the sessions between pharma companies, business leaders and geo-political thinkers according to Aghi. There were, however, a few concerns that needed to be addressed. "India supplies 40 per cent of the generic drugs to the US, but it imports 70 per cent API from China. There's a risk factor there. When we initially started supplying oxygen to India, we had challenges,” said Aghi adding that, "The vaccines shipping goes under the name of Indian Red Cross. They distribute it to the states. And then we get Deloitte, who is our audit partner, to give us feedback on what is happening in each state and how the vaccine is being distributed. It is a very transparent process.
"One of the messages shared with the Government of India is, when you compare manufacturing in India and China - on matters like labour costs, on taxation on electricity costs, things are on a par. But due to the logistics cost manufacturing in India turns out to be 20 percent more expensive.”