Less than a fortnight after President Joe Biden in his conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged his country’s steadfast support for the people of India, America has responded with an unprecedented financial assistance worth nearly half a billion dollars.
Biden spoke at length with Modi last month and conveyed solidarity with India in its fight against the viral disease. He assured the prime minister that the US and India will work closely together in the fight against Covid-19.
Reflecting an overwhelming support for a “natural ally”, the entire country, not only the administration, but also the corporate sector which created a global task force, as well as Americans and Indian-Americans have opened their coffers for India.
This half a billion dollars includes $100 million pledged by the Biden administration, $70 million by pharma major Pfizer and 450,000 Remdesivir doses, the governmental purchase price of each of which in the US is $390.
Thousands of oxygen concentrators and plane-loads of life-saving drugs and health care equipment are flying off the US for India almost every day.
Several companies like Boeing and Mastercard have announced financial assistance worth $10 million each, Google has pledged $18 million, while the Global Task Force that comprises CEOs of top American companies has already pledged $30 million worth of life saving equipment.
Describing it as a “Berlin Life Moment”, Mukesh Aghi of US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF), told PTI he expects the assistance to touch almost $1 billion by the end of the month. “It is emotional for the diaspora, almost everyone has someone who has been touched by Covid-19,” he said.
Nisha Desai Biswal, president of US India Business Council (USIBC), said, “The outpouring of support from the US over the past two weeks was a spontaneous mass mobilization of support for the Indian people from across the America government, business community and diaspora community and the American people.”
“It is unprecedented, and it reflects both the deep bonds between our two countries and the gratitude that Americans feel for the role India played in supporting the US when we were experiencing our Covid surge last year,” she said.
However, given the “speed and severity” that have overwhelmed the capacity of hospitals and local authorities, more assistance will be needed and for a sustained period of time scale of the pandemic, Biswal said.
People of the country and the diaspora too have come out in large numbers. Indian-American Vinod Khosla has committed $10 million, top corporate leader John T Chambers has promised $1 million.
For the first time in its history, Sewa International has raised $15 million; American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) ($3.6 million), Indiaspora ($2.5 million) and Jai Shetty has raised $4 million.
“There has been overwhelming support and offers of assistance from the US Government, private sector, diaspora and the American public at large. In fact, in my interactions in recent days, the US interlocutors across the board ask me, ‘tell us what more we can do for India’,” India’s ambassador to the US Taranjit Singh Sandhu told PTI.
Among other major financial contributions announced include Procter and Gamble ($6.7 million); Merck ($5 million), Walmart ($2 million), Salesforce ($2.4 million), and Caterpillar ($3.4 million). Companies like Deloitte have announced 12,000 oxygen concentrators for India.
While Microsoft is partnering with the US government in providing aid and oxygen, FedEx and UPS have taken up the mantle of taking care of the transportation of life saving health care equipment like oxygen cylinders, ventilators and oxygen concentrators to India.
On Sunday, Indian-Americans from Tamil Nadu including eminent philanthropist M R Rangaswami, held a “Help Tamil Nadu Breathe” to raise $1.5 million in a few hours.
“This is an incredible outpouring of generosity, which people have come to expect from America. When the world has a crisis, beyond politics, beyond dispute, America steps up,” Rangaswami said.
“It is comforting to see US cargo jets with much needed medical supplies landing at Delhi airport regularly,” said Karun Rishi, president of the USA-India Chambers of Commerce.
Noting that the stakes are very high for the entire world, he said India’s success or failure to come out of this once-in-a-century crisis will have a direct impact throughout the world.