India, US bolster engagement on COVID-19
India’s reaction of the actions undertaken by the US and China in response to the COVID-19 pandemic reflect India’s bilateral relations with each.
Over the first two decades of the current century, India and the US have developed what many strategic analysts and diplomats have described as “the defining relationship of the 21st century”. In engaging so closely with the US, India has had to finesse its relationship with its northern neighbour and rising hegemon, China. The COVID-19 pandemic and the reactions of the three countries to it reflect the realities of India’s bilateral relations with each.
In a gesture of friendship, India’s Narendra Modi government has lifted its earlier ban on the export of Hydroxychloroquine tablets to, among other things, facilitate supplies to the US at President Donald Trump’s request. This drug has been found effective in treating coronavirus cases.
Then, India and the US are collaborating on developing a new vaccine for coronavirus, and the Trump administration has allowed companies such as Abbot, Sanofi Pasteur and GM to enter bulk supply contracts with India for diagnostic kits and ventilator machines. Such deals are being permitted only for the US’s closest friends and allies
Contrast this with the very transactional dealings that both countries have had with China on the Covid-19 fallout. Both the US and India want to buy protective personal equipment (PPE) and ventilators from China. That’s it!
The truth is that India’s ties with the US are multi-layered and both broad and deep. So, the collaboration on the pandemic is just an extension of the ongoing strategic engagement that various arms of the two governments and multiple stakeholders in the private sector are already engaged in. This stands in sharp contrast to the clearly buyer-seller dynamics of ties the two countries have with China.