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Transcript of Special Briefing by Foreign Secretary on International Cooperation on COVID Pandemic (April 29, 2021)

April 29, 2021

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Good afternoon and a warm welcome to this special briefing on India's International cooperation regarding COVID-19. Given the special circumstances in which this is happening, we have planned the virtual event and I’m delighted to see some of our journalist friends are here in person, and that will make it more lively. Today for this special briefing we have privilege to have with us Foreign Secretary, Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla accompanying him is OSD (COVID and Europe) Shri Dammu Ravi and I would invite Foreign Secretary to make opening remarks and then we will open the floor for questions. Given the hybrid format, it will be slightly different and I will layout the ground rules thereafter. Sir, over to you.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Welllet me begin by thanking our friends in the media for joining us both virtually and some of us who are here in person for this media briefing on, as JS (XP) has mentioned, international cooperation. Of course, we also appreciate you being here at relatively short notice. You are aware of the context. We are facing an unprecedented second wave of the pandemic. As of now we have over 3 million active cases. This has obviously put considerable pressure on our healthcare system, on the capacities and resources that we have. Government has been in many senses very quick to try and make an assessment of where we have capacity shortfalls, where we have a requirement to meet on an urgent basis. Based on some of these considerations, the Ministry of External Affairs was charged, we are trying to find the most effective means of addressing those resource constraints. We have of course, been part of a larger, I would say interagency and inter-ministerial consultation in this regard. These consultations are guided by the very highest levels. The Prime Minister has personally given his direction and guidance on many of the areas that we're dealing with. The group of ministers has been involved integrally in the process.

Our own Minister, External Affairs Minister has personally been involved in overseeing the process in our ministry. You saw that late last night he had a video conference with all of our Heads of Missions all over the world, with the objective of not only briefing them, but also directing them on what they need to do in terms of the highest priorities attached to our domestic consideration with regard to meeting the requirements of our health system today.

We have, as I mentioned prioritised certain areas. Liquid oxygen is one of the areas that has been a priority. We've also seen the requirement for equipment that produces oxygen, oxygen generators, oxygen concentrators, oxygen producing equipment, cryogenic tankers, and transportation equipment for oxygen. We've also needed some urgent pharmaceutical products like Remdesivir and Tocilizumab, which is also a drug that is quite urgently required, although we produce Remdesivir but given the requirements, the production has not been adequate to meet the immediate shortfall. So in all of this, I think we did call upon our missions, in particular, the ones that were really in countries that had the capacity to meet our priority items. It's been a very high priority. The Minister of External Affairs has attached the greatest importance to this effort. As you're aware, we had OSD, Special Secretary Dammu Ravi, who's been dealing with the COVID issues. But we've also deployed a number of younger officers to work with him so that we have quick responses. We have people who are working 24*7 on this issue. We have a number of other officers dealing with other areas. I want to just for your benefit, categorise what are the different areas that we are working on. One is that we are looking at government to government sourcing. In other words, government has an empowered group, which is empowered group two which as you know, is headed by at currently by the Secretary of the Ministry of Transport and Highways. And this group has been engaged with seeing how we can quickly source bulk oxygen, bulk liquid oxygen, etc. And they've done some very commendable work in getting some immediate results in that area.

The second is an area in which we have actually received offers of assistance from various governments, actually there has been quite an outpouring of solidarity with India, and there’s been outpouring of assistance from various countries. Over 40 countries have actually committed to provide us with many of the items that we need most urgently. I'll try and give you some more details on that. The third area is in terms of procurement by Indian corporates, many of the larger Indian companies who are already very integrated into supply chains globally, have been sourcing equipment on the line that I mentioned quickly from their sources of supply. And we've already again seen some results in that regard.

The fourth area is International corporates. In the US, for example, a very large number of corporates have come together under the auspices of the State Department and some government facilitation to offer assistance through their own resources. We've seen that also in other countries. And finally, Indian community associations, individuals from all over the world have come forward to say that what can we do to assist, so we are getting offers which are from different parts of the world. Our objective is to ensure that we channelize all of this assistance that is both sought by us and being received in a manner that is as effective as possible. In other words, how do we receive it, how do we ensure that we facilitate quick clearance and not only that we ensure that all of this is taken to different parts of the country where it is needed the most, in critical areas. In that context, of course, we have had very strong inter-ministerial and interagency cooperation. Cabinet secretary has been overseeing this process himself. We've also had the representatives of number of other ministries, obviously, the health ministry, pharmaceuticals, Home Ministry, Civil Aviation, Ministry of Defence, biotechnology. Range of ministries, agencies, finance, shouldn’t forget have been involved in this effort.

What we want to make sure is that all this equipment that is consigned to India, to the Government of India is expeditiously cleared, there are blanket exemptions from the different taxes, customs duties and taxes that they would have to normally undergo, if such items were coming to India, how they can be declared. But also most important is logistically when we're talking about heavy equipment, oxygen generating plants etc how these are taken to different parts of the country where it's most needed, and this is something that has been quite a major effort. I mean, we want to make sure that this process is smooth right from the point that we identify sources of supply to the point that it actually reaches those of our citizens that need these items and this sort of systems the most. And so, you can imagine that this is a very high priority and this is something that we give the greatest importance to. The normal procedure is that when a certain consignment has to come to India, it is consigned to the Indian Red Cross society, the Indian Red Cross society receives all these items on behalf of the government of India. And then we have an entire team that takes this over. This is mainly the Ministry of Health that identifies what has to be done, but there's a lot of logistical support by company associated with Ministry of Health and the Department of military affairs to see that the equipment is very quickly placed where we need to have it placed.

Just to give you some sense of where we are, we've got already a number of items that have come in. For example, the first flight that came in, I think many of you would have seen was on the night of 27th April from the UK which brought in a number of oxygen concentrators, ventilators and other equipment. Last night we had a flight from Russia, actually two aircraft, special aircrafts that came in from Russia that bought a very large number of oxygen generating equipment. That means plants that generate oxygen, we had some twenty of those plants, we also have had a lot of ventilators, bedside monitors, Russia also gave us Favipiravir, which is in some senses, again, anti-viral for COVID-19 treatment. We are also expecting tomorrow and over the next couple of days three special flights from the United States. You would have seen that President Biden spoke to Prime Minister, he offered extensive assistance. You would have seen the details of that assistance also from the United States. And of course, that assistance also went into areas like raw materials for our vaccine industry etc. But the US is going to provide at an initial basis at least three of these aircraft coming in with much needed oxygen equipment and concentrators, other areas that we need assistance. We have a special cargo flight that is arriving tonight I believe from UAE again with ventilators and carrying Favipiravir medicines. Just going back quickly to the US, I talked about the three flights that are coming in, two flights tomorrow, one in the morning and one in the afternoon and on the Third of May we will have a third flight. They will carry with them very large number of oxygen generating equipment, there will also be 2000 oxygen concentrators, 500 oxygen cylinders and I would say that capacity to provide 28 million litres of oxygen. So, again, very much needed help both in terms of cylinders, in terms of actual oxygen but also most importantly oxygen generating equipment that is very much needed. We also have a flight from Ireland coming in with 700 concentrators. France has also been very active; I think their flight will also be coming in on Saturday. As I said over 40 countries and these are not just developed countries, our neighbours, Mauritius, Bangladesh, Bhutan have all come forward to offer assistance in whichever capacity is possible. And we have got a lot of assistance also and commitments of assistance from different parts of the world from Europe, from the Gulf region, UAE, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, but also Europe and even further parts of the world from Australia and New Zealand and countries like Guayana, which are located geographically further away, all of this is very important, because this has to be coordinated very carefully. And we have to ensure that whatever comes in is something which is not only required by us, obviously, but also is prioritised quickly. So, in a nutshell, this is really what we wanted to give you a sense of. If you want an overall sense of what is coming in terms of oxygen generating plants, we are talking about over 500 plants, in fact, we're talking about close to 550 oxygen generating plants that are going to come in from different sources from all over the world. As I said, it is those that we are purchasing, it is those that have been provided by corporates, by governments, by private individuals, by community associations. It's a mix of all that but we are looking at over 500 oxygen generating plants coming in the next few days and weeks. We are looking at over 4000 oxygen concentrators; you know that these are very, very essential for what we're doing now. We're looking at over 10,000 oxygen cylinders, which are also in some senses in short supply, 17 oxygen cryogenic tankers, some of which have already come in, you've seen the Air Force has flown in some of these tankers from Thailand, Singapore, etc.

And, of course, Gilead Sciences has offered us 450,000 doses of Remdesivir which is very, very essential in today's context. We also have been offered 300,000 doses of Favipiravir, some from Russia, as I mentioned, but also from the UAE and other countries. Tocilizumab is very essential, again, part of our priority list. And we are going to get Tocilizumab from Germany, Switzerland. Roche has also agreed to expedite their raw materials, supplies for the production of some of our very essential drugs and so as Gilead Sciences. So we're also expediting raw material supplies, not only for the production of Remdesivir, but also in terms of vaccines.

So, what I want to say is that all in all, international cooperation is a vital part of meeting and bridging the immediate requirements that we have. Obviously we are making every effort to step up our own capacities. For example, my colleague Secretary pharmaceuticals told me that we normally manufacture 67,000 doses of Remdesivir a day, our seven manufacturers of Remdesivir that are authorised manufacturers by Gilead Sciences, but the requirement today might be between two to three lakhs a day. So we have to bridge the gap and this gap is something that our producers are well aware of. They are actually ramping up their production. We've had a meeting, which our minister himself took, which the cabinet secretary also took with all producers and we find that they are ready to go from 67,000 to three lakhs even four lakhs a day. They need the raw material inputs, they need the support, and that is something that is coming in the fullest possible way. They've got all assurances from Gilead, from the US government, that whatever requirements are there, we will try and meet it to the best of our ability. As you know, we are also in touch with other manufacturers of Remdesivir in Egypt, in other parts of the world to see whether we can source this from those countries and we are working on making sure that those gaps are met. So what we're talking about is short term gaps. We're not even talking about the medium term, I think by the medium term, our own domestic industry would have been up to the task. You have seen that when we had the first wave, there was a shortage of masks, PPS, ventilators. In a short while we went from being net importers to net exporters, test kit for example, today we are producing enough test kits for ourselves and different parts of world; I would say that the same thing will be seen in terms of production of Remdesivir, in terms of production of some of the oxygen generating equipment. If you see in oxygen terms also from our health authorities have made a very detailed presentation where it's very clear that our capacities have been ramped up even in the first few days of the second wave. And we have also diverted oxygen that normally goes to industrial units for medical uses, but there are logistical challenges, much of the oxygen produces in the eastern part of the country, whereas a demand is primarily in the western and northern parts of our country. So we have to match the supply source with the demand source, we need transportation equipment to do it, and therefore cryogenic tankers and the Indian Air Force has come in terms of making sure that there is enough capacity to do that. I must end our opening remarks by saying that all of our Missions and all of our Ambassadors have been very receptive, extremely adept in meeting the requirements of the day. We've established contact directly with Gilead, with Roche, with all of the companies that are involved. We're working with governments, we're working with the private sector, we're working with Associations, and we’re working with chambers of commerce. We are giving the topmost priority to meeting our immediate requirements in terms of our healthcare facilities in combating the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. So, actually, if you look at it in the next few days, if you look at the sort of capacities that we will be creating now we'll be doing a very important load of bridging by which time domestic capacities would have come into place. In the ministry itself as I said, we have different teams working on different parts of it, we are very clear that this is the highest priority and we will work extensively to make sure that the entire cooperation and coordination that we need with all of our partners, international partners interlocutors all over the world will be smoothly interfaced with our domestic requirements and our domestic ministries and agencies that actually deal with this on the ground. So for example, if we are getting a generating plant and the need is not in Delhi, but in say in Chhattisgarh or say in Jharkhand, flight can be sent straight there and this equipment can be sent there. So the coordination is very, very minute to minute. It's also anticipatory. If a flight is coming on Saturday, we have already got the entire list, we have got the manifest, you've got done all the clearances, the paperwork, everything should be cleared quickly. We're also anticipating issues, for example, technical issues, you know, you have 110 volts in the US we have 220 volts here, how do you manage that? How do you anticipate that situation? In certain cases installation is a problem, because we are dealing with equipment from Russia, equipment from France, from Germany, from USA, from Singapore, how do you reconcile that with our own requirements. So all of these issues are those that we are trying to anticipate in advance and that is where good coordination, good cooperation and good synergies are very critical within our system, but it is a whole of government effort. So let me stop there, Arindam and see if you have any questions.

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thankyou very much sir. Actually, because it is in virtual format, we have got a lot of questions from journalists who have joined virtually, we also have some of them here but since they are here we will open the floor first to them and then maybe we will do it topic wise so we will take up a topic and perhaps take up a few questions. Pranay please. As this is a norm, please introduce yourself and your organisation for our recording.

Pranay: Foreign Secretary, Pranay Upadhyaya ABP News se, mera sawal is chiz ko le ke, Remdesivir ko jis tarah se aapne kaha 67000 prati din hamara production hai aur 2 se 3 lakh tak ki demand hai. Jo Remdesivir ki kami ko poora karne ke liye neighbourhood mein, chahe Bangladesh ho, ya doosre desh ho, Wahan ki capacity yaa kin kin desho ko ham Capacity ke taur par dekh rahen hein jahan Production ya stock available hai, aur unhein source kiya ja sakta hai including US aur any other country? (Questioned in Hindi;App.Translation) Foreign Secretary! I am Pranay Upadhyaya from ABP News, My question is related to Remdesivir and as you told that our production is 67000 per day but the demand is from 2 to 3 lakhs. The manufacturing capacity of Remdesivir is available in many neighbourhood countries like Bangladesh etc. To which countries we are considering as capacities where production or stocks are available and can be sourced including US and any other country.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Dekhiye humne poori koshish ki hai, ki jitney supply sources hein Remdesivir ke, chahe wo original manufacturerer jo Gilead Sciences ke pas ho, ya unke authorized manufacturer ho Egypt mein ya Israel mein, ya jahan bhi hon, unko humne directly bhi contact kiya hai, toh Gilead Sciences ne to commit kiya hai ki 4,50,000 dose, wo company ke taraf se, gratis basis pe humein denge. Iske alawa humne Egypt ko contact kiya hai, jahan pe hum 4 lakh dose aur, humein ummid hai ki wahan se aa sakti hai. Humein ye bhi pata hai ki Bangladesh mein bhi manufacture ho raha hai. Uzbekistan mein bhi kuch stock hein. UAE mein bhi kuch stock hein. To jahan bhi stock hein, hum unke saath sampark kar rahein hein aur hum dekh rahein hein ki kaise ye jaldi se jaldi ye hamare desh mein stock aa jain. Taaki ye jo short term gap jo meine bataya aapko, usko cover kar sake. (Answered in Hindi; App.Translation) look, we are trying our best, we have tried to contact all the manufacturers of Remdesivir, whether it is Gilead Sciences or their authorized manufacturers, whether they are in Egypt, or in Israel or any other place. Gilead Sciences have committed 4,50,000 doses on gratis basis from company. Other than this we have contacted Egypt also and we expect 400000 doses from there. We are also aware that it is being manufactured in Bangladesh also, some stocks are available in Uzbekistan and UAE. So, wherever stocks are available, we are trying to contact them and trying to get it in our country at the earliest. So that we can cover the short term gap which I told you.

Speaker 1: I am from Asahi Shimbun media. What support from Japanese government is there and do you accept aid from Pakistan and China?

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sir before we move on to that, on the issue of receiving assistance from China, we have couple of other people. Manash from PTI has a similar question, "Is there any policy on accepting foreign help and are we accepting aid from China and Pakistan?” We have also got similar queries from Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha, Chandrakala from ETV who also mentioned that "Chinese foreign Minister has accepted the initiative to join Anti-covid initiative and our response?”, and Gautam Lehari who has asked "whether there is any proposal from China to participate in vaccine cooperation in South Asia?”

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Well let me just respond to the question from Asahi Shimbun first. Japan has been very close partner in whatever areas of importance that are there in terms of international cooperation, and we are very happy that Japan has been responsive to many of our requirements. And here, Japan has offered us a number of items including concentrators, ventilators and pharmaceutical products. And of course, the means and details of this is yet to be elaborated, but the offer has been made and I think it should be here quite soon. As far as your other question is concerned, and one that JS (XP) also alluded to, we know that number of companies in India is sourcing products I mentioned to you that companies also have also been active in sourcing our priority requirements be the oxygen generators, concentrators, you know, pharmaceuticals, etc. And some of it is coming from China and it's being sourced from China also. And cargo flights are operating and some of this equipment is coming in, some of it is being sourced. But I think this is part of meeting the requirements as I said in the most effective manner possible. And our missions and posts have been asked to facilitate wherever required, there are issues of transportation, there are issues regarding the speed at which we can get some of these products. So, we are fully engaged in ensuring that many of this equipment and supplies are coming in as fast as possible.

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you. Yes, please.

Neeraj: Hello sir. Neeraj hoon New 18 India se Network 18 group se. Sawal hamara ye hai ki kya videshon se sahayta lene mein Bharat Sarkar ki niti mein koi badlav hua hai? Aur doosra sawal hai ki kai deshon ne aapne logon ke liye travel advisories jaari ki hai, America, France, Germany. Ise aap kaise dekhte hein. (Questioned in Hindi; App.Translation) Hello Sir, I am Neeraj from New India 18, News 18 Group. My question is that, Is there any change in India’s policy in accepting foreign aids? And the second question, Many countries like America, France, Germany have issued travel advisories, how do you view this?

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sirwe also have very similar queries on the flights, Huma from financial express on the Vande Bharat mission, it is going on and plan to restart. And from Nayanima from the Print, "what is the status of several air bubble arrangements now that most countries have temporarily stopped taking Indians in their countries?” On the change of policy aspect sir, we have queries from Huma again. I think that we have a couple of other queries, I'll come to that sir on the same issue of whether there is policy change on accepting aid from other countries.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Dekhiye jo ye stithi hai ye shayad hamne kabhi dekha nahin hai pehle aur shayad na dekhenge iske baad (App translation: Look, perhaps we haven’t seen such kind of situation before and perhaps we won’t even see it in future). It is an unprecedented situation to respond to that, the questions that have been posed on this, we are dealing with a situation that is quite exceptional. We have certainly prioritised the items that we need. As I said, we are sourcing many of these items from many countries, but many countries have come forward on their own to offer assistance. And you've seen that in many countries, I think the fact that we have been responsive to their needs when they had the requirement. Keep in mind that the United States, much of Europe, many other countries they had a second or even third wave. So in a certain sense, when we supplied essential pharmaceutical products, whether it is hydroxychloroquine, whether it is paracetamol or even Remdesivir, at that time, or we supplied vaccines under our Vaccine Maitri programme, there was appreciation that we came to the assistance of other countries in pursuit of what our Prime Minister called working for the common good, or in our concept of vasudhaiva kutumbakam. And today, those countries, if you see what President Biden said, what the United States said, what many Gulf countries have said, many of our other partners have said we appreciate your assistance. We are today giving you assistance in return. We have given assistance, we are getting assistance. It shows an interdependent world, it shows a world that is working with each other. And I must say here, we have been in the forefront of generating that consciousness that the Covid-19 pandemic is not one that countries should be looking out for themselves only. Very early in the game, Prime Minister has talked about the fact that countries need to come together to cooperate. That is why he initiated the SAARC conference on COVID-19 in March when this was a very new concept. He then initiated the call for a G20 summit, an extraordinary summit; the G20 has always met for financial or economic reasons never met for humanitarian circumstances. And we have extensively, I think, even sometimes gone forward to assist countries where, you know, they were very far away, they were not normally within our ambit. You saw so many Caribbean countries, Latin American countries, African countries. And today, these countries are coming forward and saying what can we do. Mauritius offered us assistance. Bhutan has offered us, they said we have two oxygen plants, please use them for your requirements in Assam and West Bengal. Bangladesh is saying that we produce Remdesivir please take some of our Remdesivir. But why are these countries saying it? They're saying it because they feel this is a time where we must help India. India has helped us we must help India. So I don't think we are looking at it in policy terms. We are looking at it in terms of a situation that is very, very unusual. That is very unprecedented. That is very exceptional and we will do whatever it takes to meet the requirements of our people at this point of time.

As far as travel arrangements are concerned, the Vande Bharat flights, we are looking at the tenth phase of Vande Bharat mission as I said we have already transported 7 billion of our people through these mission has been unprecedented from the point of view of the sheer movement of people who have been affected by lockdowns and between lockdowns. You have to keep in mind that in terms of movement of people, any restrictions that are placed are temporary in nature. After all, when UK had an issue, then there was a temporary ban from our side. When there was an issue involving Europe, there was a temporary ban. When we had issues from Southeast Asia, we had put a ban, but they were temporary in nature. Similarly, we believe that many of these restrictions that you're talking about today and we are in touch with all our interlocutors they've all said look, this is what we are doing. But this is only dependent on as long as the situation is there. This is not even a medium term thing. These are short term measures. The second thing is that with most countries, we have ensured that at least we are open in terms of cargo connectivity. Air connectivity is there, whether it is the Gulf, whether it is Europe, whether it is America, whether it is Southeast Asia or China, the Air connectivity should be open. Cargo should travel and you know the central supply chains are involved should not be disrupted. Toh agar travel ki koi samsya ho toh ye jitney bhi humare restrictions hain, woh temporary honge, short term honge. Jo hum dekh rhe hain humari taraf se, videsh mantralaya ki taraf se, aur humare jitney bhi antrashtriya partners hain unke saathe jo humare sampark hai, jo humari charcha chal rhi hai , use sthapit ho rha hai ye short term measures hain aur ismein disruptions bhi short terms hone chahiye. Aura ap ye dekh rhe hain ki ye curves hain, first wave, second wave, aap dekhenge kaafi high se low bhi ho jaata hai, [Translation] If there is any problem in travel restriction due to restrictions, these will be temporary and short term in nature. What we are seeing from our end, Ministry of External affairs’ end, and our connection and contacts with our international partners, it is becoming established that these are short term measures, disruptions should also be short term. And you must also be seeing these curves, first wave, second wave, they become sometimes from high to low. So whatever is there we will recover and when we do that situation in terms of transport, in terms of air traffic and connectivity will be normalized.

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you sir that also answers the queries from the policy that Manash from PTI, Prashant from Asia Net, and Rezaul from Hindustan Time has asked. Next please.

Sidhant: Myself Sidhant from WION. Sir are we planning to get vaccines also amidst the crisis. And also how do you see the entire situation which is happening right now impacting our vaccine Maitri initiative because we have a commitment to the international community when it comes to giving them vaccines.

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Sir before that, on vaccine actually has a list of questions. Gautam Lehari wants an update on vaccine Maitri program, Sudhi Ranjan from Bloomberg wants to know about the vaccines that India was supposed to send to countries but could not because of this surge. How much of this is commercial? And how much of the pledge category? And any timeline on when these countries will get these vaccines? Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha wants to know more about the assistance that we have got vaccine related. And Anish from Asia Net, "has the local demand for vaccines impacted our Covax and vaccine Maitri commitments. Are we still exporting vaccines?”

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: So I spoke about an interdependent world where we have given and we are taking also. In anything that you do, there is a supply chain, you produce pharmaceuticals, but someone provides you with some ingredients of that you provide someone with a finished product, and so on and so forth. I think vaccine has to be seen in that context. You know, when we started our vaccine programme, a good part of it was also to do with international cooperation. COVAX was involved. In the case of SI, Astra Zeneca was involved. We also had our indigenous vaccine which is bharat biotech, but they also have very extensive cooperation with R&D centres and companies across the world. When we were in a position to I think we did, as I mentioned, provide vaccine under vaccine Maitri. Today our needs are far greater. And I believe all our partners understand that in this context, what today what we require is really ramping up our vaccination programme, we have 2 to 3 million, we have to go up significantly in that context. From the first of May, we will have made it universal to anybody who's over 18 years of age that also requires, as you've seen, a very large number of people have registered for that vaccination. And we will have to make sure that we have the necessary capacity to cater to that. And in that context, obviously, if we can source vaccines, we will do it, whether it's from the United States, whether it's from Russia, whether it is some other countries who have and manufacture vaccines, we will do it. You've seen the Sputnik collaboration that Sputnik has with Dr. Reddy’s and other companies. I think from May, you will start seeing some of those vaccines come in then on a fill and finished basis and then finally being manufactured in India. Good 60% of any Sputnik vaccine in the world will be manufactured in India. But for the time being, I think our requirement is very significant, very, very pressing. And I think whatever we produce and whatever we can get from other manufacturers will be used for our domestic vaccine programme.

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you sir your answer also covers the query for Huma for Financial Express wanted to know when the Russian vaccine would be available. Next please.

Pradeep Kumar: Sir, I’m Pradeep Kumar from Business Economics and Samachar post. Sir what I am asking you, Foreign Secretary Sir, Supreme court and Delhi High Court the statement, which is called a pandemic situation, how do you see that? Any comments?

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: That is mainly something that our domestic authorities, in terms of health authorities will be more competent to respond to, obviously, whatever, you know, judicial and legal related proceedings are there and whatever is decided by the honourable Supreme Court, and High Court is something that government follow, but I don't want to comment on that simply because I'm not competent and probably not adequately informed to be able to do justice to your question.

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Last question.

Speaker 3: I have a couple of questions. But first, a clarification, the Secretary of transport and highways is the person who's handling distribution of the aid that’s coming in? Is my understanding correct on that part?

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: No, I clarified that there are several empowered groups dealing with many of this. There's an empowered group under CEO of Niti Aayog that deals with corporate related cooperation, there is an Empowered Group 2, which is doing the sourcing. This is a special group that is being constituted of secretaries in which MEA is also represented, which looks at where we can immediately buy items that we critically need for our domestic healthcare requirements to deal with the COVID crisis. That is currently being chaired by the Secretary, Ministry of road transport and highways. That is one aspect of this.

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: What is your question?

Speaker 3: Okay my questions basically are on the foreign policy front there are reports, they are suggesting that there has been shift in the foreign policy in India receiving aid. Now has there been a shift? Secondly Remdesivir, we are taking Remdesivir from various countries, the stock Piles that you have mentioned could there be stockpiles that has been sourced from Pakistan, could this be a third country transfer into India?

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: First question you have answered.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: I have already answered that, quite extensively. And you know Remdesivir, as I said we are in contact with the main manufacturers in Egypt. Gilead itself is guiding us on where we can buy it from and Gilead as the parent company is best place to tell us where we can source these products from and we are in close touch with them and we will garner whatever resources there are that are available to meet our immediate shortfall in Remdesivir requirements.

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: There are no questions further from the floor but I had two set of small questions sir which has come. One was there was a lot of interest in what the US support was given, and they were talking about raw materials for covishield manufacturer this was Elizabeth from LiveMint what about Covovax and supply raw material for that? Has the US government given any specific details about supplying ready to use vaccines that’s from Manash from PTI. Deepak Ranjan from PTI Bhasha had this query about this discussion that our Prime Minister had with President of US and President of Russia recently and whether issues related to vaccines as well as other COVID related assistance was discussed. Nirender Dev speculates that the delay in the US assistance to India is related to our procurement deal with Russia, and also there are some queries about if there is US giving any other assistance. I think some of it is answered. Sir if you would like to add anything here?

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Well I did mention that Prime Minister had a very good conversation with President Biden of the United States. He also had a pretty good conversation with President Putin of the Russian Federation. Both very, very critical partners and both, I think, offered excessive assistance to India and I think the question also went into what sort of assistance it was. I will try and give you some as I said from the United States 28 billion litres of oxygen and transport, including 1,100 cylinders in the first shipment, we're talking about three aircraft loads of equipment that are arriving over tomorrow and up to 3rd of May, and then subsequently as and when this has been available. We are talking about 2000 oxygen concentrators. We're talking about 20,000 Remdesivir vials, we're talking about rapid diagnostic test kits, and we’re talking about oxygen and generating plants, 17 deployable oxygen generating units, as well as additional units, large scale units that support larger number of patients, field oxygen, and field hospitals, mobile field hospitals. And there's a very large list of other items, ventilators etc.

With regard to Russia, as well, we have some fairly extensive list of items that have been conveyed. But as I said this includes oxygen generating sets, which produces its own oxygen, like small mini oxygen plants. We've got ventilators, bedside monitors, favipiravir. So, I would think that this is something that what we are talking about is in the first instance, and which is something that will be provided as quickly as possible. And again, in the case of Russia, we've already had flights coming, probably have more flights coming. So international partners, whether it is the United States, whether it's Russia ,whether it’s US, UK, France, Germany, you know, Southeast Asia, Gulf countries, and our own neighbours have been extensively generous and forthcoming in responding to the situation on their own, as I said, they have offered this assistance on their own and many of these countries have put it in the context of the assistance that they have received from India in the past, in the first wave of the COVID crisis, and I think there is a certain appreciation for our own efforts in that regard. And I think if today, countries are coming forward, so spontaneously, to support our efforts, that is also part of our own international cooperation and the goodwill the global goodwill that has been generated over the past year or two or several years even before that, but I would say that what is important today is that our international partnerships, our global network of friends and partners and the extensive work that has been going on to the highest levels, right down to the basic function level, in building bridges, in building partnerships, in creating the sort of goodwill that is important is holding us in good stead today when we require that countries are coming forward, organisations are coming forward, corporates are coming forward, individuals are coming forward. And this is something that when we talk about international cooperation, it means all of that, and including what we're doing commercially in terms of supplementing our domestic resources to fight this second wave of the COVID Pandemic.

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you sir. The final set of questions that of course you answered a lot of this so depending upon which element. Saurabh Shukla from News Mobile is crediting our Vaccine Maitri for the success that we are getting but he is asking what is our message? and what is our specific ask from the International community. We also have questions from Huma from Financial Express asking which are the countries that have sent oxygen related material to India , Anish from Asia Net saying which are the details of consignment grants received. Prasanth from Asia Net on assistance particularly by Gulf Nations, and also Tripti Nath who is asking about that it is very good that we have helping hand but what are the transparency mechanism that we have so that this help reaches target beneficiaries in every nook and corner of India. And finally Devirupa from Wire is talking about that some states are hit more than others, have any country asked for their resources to be directed to specific states and what is our policy in that situation. And also are our embassies or missions helping State Government from procuring it or do they have to go through the commercial channels?

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Well starting from the vaccine programme, the entire vaccine production on a global basis is based on international cooperation. We have been members of COVAX, we have contributed to COVAX. COVAX is also in some ways assisted us in our own R&D efforts in the development of the vaccine industry. And today, if you're looking at, give and take in terms of vaccines, that is a part of that international cooperation. Now, it's very clear that India is a major manufacturer of vaccines. You have seen the quad partnership in vaccines in which we are getting funding and support from the United States and Japan, for creating additional capacities that could enable both the manufacturer and exporter of vaccines from India, into the Indo Pacific in particular Southeast Asia, that is doing very well, that is a programme that I think is proceeding well. It takes a bit of time because creating capacities in vaccines is not an overnight business it needs a lot of investment, it needs a lot of additional, I would say, both civil works, and at the scientific end a lot of work that has to be done there. But the cooperation is proceeding very well. Without cooperation between us and our major partners in the international vaccine cooperation whether it is United States, Japan, whether it is Australia, but also I mentioned Russia and Sputnik, there are a host of countries that are involved, I think we would not be able to adequately deal with the COVID crisis. It's only when you create those capacities, when you create the ability to manufacture vaccines that are not only required within our country, but also all over the world that we will be able to effectively deal with this crisis and our objective is not only to surmount our requirements here, but also to make sure that we have surpluses at any given time that can be exported. So as we speak, massive additional capacities in vaccines have been created. You've seen that Bharat Biotech is ramping up production. It's tripling and quadrupling its production. SI has very ambitious plans to expand this production. You have got new vaccines coming into to the market whether it is Sputnik, whether it is other companies that are coming in and I think in the next two to three months, we'll see a significant increase in the capacity, very, very significant increase. So here I think is where international cooperation in vaccines becomes effective. What I'm trying to say is without India, and without that partnership that we're looking at, you know, meeting the COVID challenge, whether it's in our own country, or whether it's all over the world and what is one lesson that we have got from this is that COVID is not something they you can deal with your country and say I'm okay. COVID is global in nature, unless you eradicate COVID all over the world, you're not going to be saved from that, you cannot have islands of areas which are completely COVID free in places which have large incidents of COVID. cooperation is needed to get rid of COVID on a global basis. So partnership and cooperation is absolutely critical. And that is something we will do. And the second point, which I made earlier, is that there are waves, it comes it peaks, it goes down. In all countries these waves have been very devastating, in our country, because we have a larger population, there's a greater density of population the impact is obviously felt in a way which is different, but we will also, I think, as in many other countries have to deal with it through our own resources, and wherever we can we deal with it through international cooperation.

The other questions, I believe, was also the countries that are involved. Just to give you a sense, I've already mentioned some of our partners, but I have also mentioned countries like Singapore, Mauritius, UAE, Romania, Bahrain, Uzbekistan, Kuwait, Sweden, Finland, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic, Portugal, Luxembourg, Austria, Denmark, Mexico, Israel, Guyana, Canada, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Switzerland and Vietnam. So what I'm seeing is that over 40 countries, very large number of countries and all of them are contributing extensively. And this is the larger message, it is not a question of which countries and what contribution, I think what is important is that many countries have come forward on their own and are providing us with that partnership that is, in many senses important to us in meeting this current situation. Was there any other part?

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Coordination with the state and transparency.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Well, yes, I think the issue was that what happens when this comes in, and how do you decide where it goes, and so on, so forth, and this is of course the competent authorities, the Health Ministry, that has a very good idea, about where the requirements are greatest. There is a committee that decides about the allocations, what we are trying to do is, and we are also part of those efforts, because we are trying to do is that if certain things come in, we try to make sure that it goes there as quickly as possible. But obviously the people who deal with the health infrastructure is best placed to be able to say where the needs are greatest, and which states and which areas parts of the country where requirements are most imminent and pressing. At this point of time, I think the central government is doing much of the sourcing and central government will make those resources available to the state governments. Because we are best placed to garner those resources. The MEA has extensive network and through our embassies and through the network of contacts, not just state to state but with as I said corporates, associations, groups, etc. we will do what it takes to get the most effective means and the fastest means of this equipment and get it across to those people who need it most, including many of our states that require these.

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you sir. Thank you for sparing your time.

Speaker 4: One last question. This is on US companies basically. Indian government and US government said that there are no disruptions from the Chinese side. But the US companies, particularly (inaudible) has said that they have face disruptions in the aid or the resources that they are trying to mobilise from China to India.

Shri Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Foreign Secretary: Well, I did check with our embassy in Beijing this morning, about flights particularly cargo flights, bringing in equipment and I'm told that very large number of flights are operational. I'm happy to share the list with you if have not already done so. But Sichuan airlines, which has about 10 flights a day has suspended operations and that of course, has an impact on some of the supplies coming in. Our endeavour is to try and ensure that air connectivity at least in cargo terms with countries is kept open. And certainly we will be in touch with the authorities in China to have as much of this connectivity open at this critical time as possible.

Shri. Arindam Bagchi, Official Spokesperson: Thank you very much sir. Thank you for your presence here as well as to Shri Dammu Ravi, OSD (Covid and Europe) Thank you to all of the team here and to all those who joined virtually. Thank you. Good afternoon.


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