Covid crisis: Chinese govt and Pakistan-based ambulance network offer to help India
The Chinese government and the Pakistan-based world’s largest ambulance network, the Edhi Foundation, have offered to help India in its efforts to battle the second wave of Covid-19 that has left the country gasping for oxygen.
The external affairs ministry had not responded to either offer for hours after they were made early on Friday. The two proposals, strategic experts pointed out, are in stark contrast to the silence of the US to the crisis in India and also its refusal to ease restrictions on the export of raw materials needed for the production of vaccines.
Asked if the Chinese government was in communication with India on providing help and the nature of assistance that Beijing could offer, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said: “The Chinese government and people firmly support the Indian government and people in fighting the coronavirus. China is ready to provide support and help according to India’s need, and is in communication with the Indian side on this. We believe that the Indian people will defeat the virus at an early date.”
The chairman of the Edhi Foundation, Faisal Edhi, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing concern about the “exceptionally heavy impact” that the pandemic has had on India and offering 50 staffed ambulances. He has personally offered to lead the humanitarian effort.
“Our organisation understands the gravity of the situation, and we wish to lend you our full support, without any inconvenience to you, which is why we will arrange all the necessary supplies that our team needs to assist the people of India. Importantly, we are not requesting any other assistance from you, as we are providing the fuel, food and other necessary amenities that our team will require. Our team consists of emergency medical technicians, office staff, drivers, and supporting staff,” the letter said.
All that the Foundation is asking from India is permission to enter the country, besides any necessary guidance from the local administration and police. “We are willing to deploy our team into any critical areas of concern at your direction without hesitation,” Edhi added.
Twitterati was quick to point out how the Edhi Foundation’s offer, in particular, stood out in the face of US refusal to come to India’s help in vaccine manufacturing.
“Pakistan’s Edhi Foundation, founded by the late great Abdul Sattar Edhi, has done what most of the world’s richest governments have declined to do: Extend an offer of assistance to an Indian nation deeply in need. This is the example that must be set, and that the world must see,” tweeted Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at the Washington-based Wilson Centre.
Pakistan’s Edhi Foundation, founded by the late great Abdul Sattar Edhi, has done what most of the world’s richest governments have declined to do: Extend an offer of assistance to an Indian nation deeply in need. This is the example that must be set, and that the world must see.— Michael Kugelman (@MichaelKugelman) April 23, 2021
Happymon Jacob, a professor at JNU, tweeted: “The US refuses to help India with vaccine raw materials when the latter faces its worst humanitarian crisis! With friends like this, who needs enemies?!.” He did not refer to the Chinese or the Edhi offer but the swipe appeared to be at India’s foreign policy choice of sidling up to the US on various fronts.
The US refuses to help India with vaccine raw materials when the latter faces its worst humanitarian crisis!— Happymon Jacob ഹാപ്പിമോൻ ജേക്കബ് (@HappymonJacob) April 23, 2021
With friends like this, who needs enemies?!
Responding to a question on when the Joe Biden administration will reply to Indian requests to ease the restrictions on the export of raw materials needed for making vaccines, a US state department spokesman said on Thursday: “The United States first and foremost is engaged in an ambitious... effort to vaccinate the American people. That campaign is well underway, and we’re doing that for a couple of reasons.
“Number one, we have a special responsibility to the American people. Number two, the American people, this country has been hit harder than any other country around the world — more than 550,000 deaths, tens of millions of infections in this country alone.... It’s, of course, not only in our interest to see Americans vaccinated; it’s in the interests of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated.
“The point the secretary has made repeatedly is that as long as the virus is spreading anywhere, it is a threat to people everywhere. So as long as the virus is spreading uncontrolled in this country, it can mutate and it can travel beyond our borders. That, in turn, poses a threat well beyond the United States.”