Biden admin pressing India to resume export of Covid vaccines: Report
The Joe Biden administration has been pressing Prime Minister Narendra Modi reportedly to let India resume exporting Covid-19 vaccines, and is tying it to a possible prominent role for him at a global summit US President plans to hold on the sidelines of the UN general assembly meetings.
“We have been regularly communicating with (the) government of India in bilateral and multilateral channels to discuss vaccine supply and inquire about timeline for exports,” a US official told Axios news publication, insisting, at the same time, that “these conversations are not tied to a specific summit or engagement”.
Prime Minister Modi’s participation in the summit will not be incumbent upon his agreeing to resuming export of vaccines.
The summit has not been announced yet.
Prime Minister Modi will be joining his counterparts from Australia and Japan - Scott Morrison and Yoshihide Suga - and President Biden for the first in-person summit of the Quad (Quadrilateral Security Dialogue) at the White House on September 24, according to announcements by the Indian ministry of external affairs and the White House. And, the pandemic is on the agenda, along with climate change and the Indo-Pacific.
India ceased export of Covid-19 vaccines earlier in the year after it faced internal criticism for not inoculating enough Indians in the wake of a massive surge in cases caused by the more virulent Delta variant.
India is in a far better place with half of its eligible populating having received at least one shot of a vaccine.
Axios reported that Biden administration officials have said they understand this is a sensitive issue and have thus decided to adopt a “soft approach” to Modi and it added, citing officials, the administration has “decided against trying to pressurise Modi by conditioning his participation on his willingness to release vaccines to Covax. He’ll be welcomed regardless of his decision”.
The United States had itself banned the export of Covid-19 vaccines as it sought to marshal all available resources to vaccinate Americans and build a stockpile of vaccines for use domestically, by invoking special wartime powers of the president. This had created a shortfall of raw material for vaccines in India, as supplies were blocked from shipping.
The United States lifted the curbs as part of a relief package it announced for India to help it deal with the crippling surge in cases fuelled by the Delta variant, along with oxygen concentrators, therapeutics such as remdesivir and personal protection equipment for healthcare workers.
The Biden administration plans to push participants at the summit to contribute vaccines to the WHO-run Covax initiative, which is trying to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines around the world. Some countries have distributed vaccines through bilateral arrangement to earn and build diplomatic equity.
Axios reported that the Biden administration plans to invite Russia, which has stayed away from Covax, to the summit, as well as China.