US Awaits India’s Nod To Dispatch Covid Vaccines

The United States has said it is waiting for the Indian government to give a green signal for dispatching the anti-Covid vaccines that the US is donating to several countries across the world. “We are ready to ship those vaccines expeditiously when we have a green light from the Government of India,” State Department spokesperson Ned Price said, as reported by news agency PTI. US vaccines have reached Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. But for India, it is taking time as there are some legal hurdles for emergency import, Ned Price said.

The US earlier announced to share 80 million doses from its domestic stock with countries around the world. Under India’s share, it is supposed to get 3-4 million doses of Moderna and Pfizer from the United States. While Moderna has been approved by the Drug Controller General of India, Pfizer has not yet applied for an emergency approval in India yet.India has sought time to review its legal provision to accept vaccine donation, the United States has said as Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh received vaccines from the US.

What are the legal hurdles?

“Before we can ship those doses, however, each country must complete its own domestic set of operational, of regulatory, and legal processes that are specific to each country. Now, India has determined that it needs further time to review legal provisions related to accepting vaccine donations,” Price said.

Sputnik plans 300 million doses a year

Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine, developed by Gamaleya National Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, was granted emergency use authorisation in India in May. Covishield-maker Serum Institute of India (SII) has added yet another brand to its growing portfolio of Covid-19 vaccines, unveiling plans on Tuesday to manufacture Russia’s Sputnik V over the next two months. SII’s addition to a growing list of Indian partners for Sputnik V would enable the country to churn out over a billion doses of the Russian vaccine every year. It is also likely to help improve supply of the vaccine in India, where a soft launch has already taken place through vials imported from Russia but doses from most domestic manufacturers are still awaited.

SII, through its partnership with the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), intends to produce over 300 million doses of Sputnik V per year, said Russia’s sovereign wealth fund in a statement. This takes India’s annual production capacity of this vaccine to nearly 1.2 billion doses a year. The Pune-headquartered vaccine maker has already received samples of the cell and vector — crucial components to make the vaccine — from the Gamaleya Research Institute of Epidemiology and Microbiology as part of the technical transfer process. The cultivation process has already begun.

“We hope to make millions of doses in the coming months with trial batches starting in the month of September,” said SII CEO Adar Poonawalla. “We expect the ramp-up to be quite quick…we’ve actually been working with Serum for the last three months,” said RDIF CEO Kirill Dmitriev.

Jaishankar On A Mission To US, Urging Covid Help

With India grappling with the ferocious second wave of Covid-19, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is on a vaccine mission to the United States as India fights shortages of doses amidst a virulent second surge.

WashingWith India grappling with the ferocious second wave of Covid-19, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is on a vaccine mission to the United States as India fights shortages of doses amidst a virulent second surge.Jaishankar met with several high ranking officials at the UD administration, including US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, USAID Administrator Samantha Power top American lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties, and top American business leaders in Washington DC. Jaishankar is the first Indian Cabinet minister to visit the US after Joe Biden became President on January 20.

At the meetings with the US leaders, Jaishankar discussed vaccine cooperation, contemporary security challenges, support for efficient and robust supply chain, among others. While there was no readout after the meetings, sources said that vaccine cooperation was one of the key areas of conversation between the two sides.Jaishankar’s in-person meetings come days after US President Joe Biden announced that the US will begin shipping 20 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccines to unspecified needy countries by June-end, in addition to 60 million shots of AstraZeneca.

Although Washington has not yet decided how these 80 million doses will be distributed, India is likely to be one of the beneficiaries — be it AstraZeneca, which is already made and distributed in India as Covishield, or the ones by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, or a mix. AstraZeneca’s vaccine is not authorized for use in the United States yet. The US had cited faults in a plant in Baltimore that is manufacturing both the AstraZenenca and J&J vaccines.Jaishankar arrived in New York Sunday, May 23rd  and met UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and travelled to Washington on May 26th, where he met with Blinken, focusing on vaccine cooperation between the two countries. While India is struggling with a shortage of vaccines, the US has surplus vaccines and raw materials needed to manufacture them.

Blinken described Jaishankar as “my friend and colleague”. “The United States and India are working together on so many of the most important challenges of our time and ones that are putting a profound impact on our lives,” he said. “We are united in confronting Covid-19 together, we (are) united in dealing with the challenge posed by climate change, to partner together directly, through Quad and other institutions in the United Nations in dealing with many of the challenges that we face in the region and around the world,” Blinken said. “The partnership between the United States and India is vital. It’s strong. And I think it’s increasingly predominant,” he said.

Echoing Blinken, Jaishankar said, “We have a lot of issues to discuss. But our relations have grown stronger over the years and I’m very confident we’ll continue to do so, but I also want to take the opportunity to express to the Secretary and through him to the administration of the United States for the strong support and solidarity at a moment of great difficulty for us.”At this point, Blinken said, “We remember, in the earlier days of the pandemic, India was there with the United States. Something we’ll never forget. And now we want to make sure that we’re there for and with India.” Jaishankar and Blinken have spoken at least four times in the past three months, twice in the last fortnight, and once at the Quad Foreign Ministers’ meeting through video-conferencing.

During Jaishankar’s wide-ranging discussions with NSA Sullivan, the two countries agreed that people-to-people ties and shared values are the foundations of the US-India strategic partnership that is helping to end the pandemic, supporting a free and open Indo-Pacific, and providing global leadership on climate change. “Pleased to meet Jake Sullivan. Wide-ranging discussions including on Indo-Pacific and Afghanistan. Conveyed appreciation for US solidarity in addressing the Covid challenge. India-US vaccine partnership can make a real difference,” Jaishankar said in a tweet after the meeting.

“Our people-to-people ties and our values are the foundation of the US-India partnership and will help us end the pandemic, lead on climate, and support a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Sullivan wrote on Twitter after the meeting. After his meeting with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, Jaishankar tweeted: “Welcomed her positive stance on IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) issues & support for efficient and robust supply chains.”Jaishankar said that he had a “warm meeting” with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, during which they discussed further developing strategic and defense partnership between the two countries and exchanged views on “contemporary security challenges”.

In a statement issued by USAID, it was reported, “The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power met with Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar to discuss urgent shared priorities for development and humanitarian assistance during the current surge of COVID-19 across India. Administrator Power and Minister Jaishankar discussed areas for important collaboration on pandemic response efforts in India, as well as strategies to catalyze private capital to save lives, counter the spread of the pandemic, and strengthen health systems for the future. The two leaders also discussed opportunities to strengthen developmental cooperation through the Quad and with India’s Development Partnership Administration, including through collaboration with third-country partners in the Indo-Pacific, Africa, and other regions.”

Jaishankar also had meetings with the top American business leadership hosted by the US India Business Council and the US India Strategic and Partnership Forum. Jaishankar also met influential American lawmakers from both the Democratic and Republican parties and discussed developments about Quad and the cooperation on vaccines with them. He tweeted that he had “good conversations” with co-chairs of the House India Caucus, Congressman Brad Sherman and Rep. Steve Chabot.“The US Congress has been a tremendous pillar of support as India meets the Covid challenge,” he said.

Talking with former US National Security Advisor General HR McMaster in ‘Battlegrounds’ session on ‘India: Opportunities And Challenges For A Strategic Partnership’ at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, New York, Jaishankar acknowledged  that it is “a very stressful time” for India due to the pandemic.Jaishankar stressed the need for countries to look beyond their national interests to global good. “If countries, especially large countries, pursue their national interest, disregarding everything else, I think the world is going to have some big problems,” he said.

“The number one question on everybody’s mind today is Covid, and the worry which people have — do we have accessible, affordable vaccines? Now, we can’t have a world which is part-vaccinated and part-neglected, because that is not going to be safe. So how do we get through the global challenges in a global way?” Jaishankar said, adding, “I think that’s the big question.”

Nature and Nurture: How the Biden Administration Can Advance Ties With India

As the administration of Joseph R. Biden Jr. is set to begin in the United States, the U.S.-India relationship is facing new tests. Biden, who deemed India a “natural partner” on the campaign trail, will have the task of upgrading a mature relationship at a time of new global dynamics and challenges.

A new Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) issue paper, “Nature and Nurture: How the Biden Administration Can Advance Ties with India,” outlines the competing pressures currently shaping U.S.-India relations.

In the paper, ASPI Associate Director Anubhav Gupta provides a blueprint for how the incoming U.S. administration can advance bilateral ties to the next level, nurturing Biden’s idea of a “natural” relationship. Presenting a series of 10 recommendations to strengthen the U.S.-India partnership, the paper suggests that a Biden administration:

  • Expand the scope of the relationship to elevate health, digital, and climate cooperation.
  • Turn the page to a positive commercial agenda that emphasizes reform and openness.
  • Renew U.S. leadership and regional consultation in the face of China’s rise.
  • Emphasize shared values as the foundation of the relationship.

The paper also argues that a growing convergence between the views of New Delhi and Washington regarding Beijing will continue to facilitate a stronger security partnership. However, “despite the increasing convergence with New Delhi on the China threat, Washington should not take for granted that a deeper strategic alignment is inevitable,” Gupta writes.

At the same time, the coronavirus pandemic has devastated both economies and strengthened support for economic nationalism, which may impede stronger commercial cooperation and the two nations’ ability to take on China. Gupta observes that “at a time when the United States and India are starting to decouple from the Chinese economy, they unfortunately have not found ways to draw closer together commercially.” With India embarking on a new campaign of “self-reliance,” an ambitious commercial agenda may be out of reach; however, Gupta argues that “Biden should not shirk from setting an optimistic tone for the relationship that deviates from the recriminations of the past four years.”

Moreover, Gupta notes that a further weakening of democratic norms in India could raise difficult questions for Biden. The incoming U.S. administration “will have to walk a tightrope of emphasizing shared values and standing up for democratic ideals while ensuring that it does not alienate important partners like India in the process.”

(A new issue paper from the Asia Society Policy Institute)

William Burns, Architect Of India-US Nuclear Deal Is Named CIA Chief

US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday named William Burns, who guided the nuclear deal between India and the US but is a strong critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, to be the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

A former Deputy Secretary of State and a senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council, and now the President of the think tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, he emphasised the importance of relations with India while criticising Modi over Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act.

But he has also acknowledged that “outsiders” cannot resolve these issues.

“I continue to believe strongly in the wisdom of the strategic investment that America and India have made in each other’s success over the past two decades,” Burns wrote last year in an article in The Atlantic magazine.

Recalling his role in bringing about the landmark agreement, he wrote: “I was the diplomat charged with completing the US-India civil-nuclear dealing the summer and fall of 2008.”

The agreement reached while Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister and George W. Bush the US President enables the two countries to cooperate on civilian nuclear projects and India to have broader access to nuclear technology and materials.

Burns recalled strong-arming European allies to go along with the exemption for India from the Nuclear Supplier Group to enable it to get access to nuclear material and equipment.

“This was about power, and we were exercising it – hardly endearing ourselves to groggy (European) partners, but impressing our Indian counterparts with the strength of America’s commitment to get this done,” he wrote.

As the US grapples with the rise of China and its hostility to Washington’s treaty allies in Asia, Burns will have to balance his nation’s strategic priorities with his personal attitude to Modi and India that he expressed as the head of a liberal think tank.

The announcement of the appointment by Biden’s transition office mentioned the threat from China.

It said, “Whether it’s cyber attacks emanating from Moscow, the challenge China poses, or the threat we face from terrorists and other non-state actors, he has the experience and skill to marshal efforts across government and around the world to ensure the CIA is positioned to protect the American people.”

Drawing on his experience of working with New Delhi, he wrote in what could be his roadmap for relations between New Delhi and Washington emphasising continuity saying that it was bigger than the ties between President Donald Trump and Modi.

“For India and the US to maximise the return on their investments, we must take a long view, keeping in mind why this strategic bet was made in the first place: our common democratic values, a long-term vision of economic openness, and a growing confidence in each other’s reliability,” he wrote in the Atlantic article published last year around Trump’s visit to India.

He criticised both Trump and Modi saying, “As intolerance and division in both societies erode their democracies, I fear that the leaders may reinforce each other’s worst instincts.”

But Trump will be gone next week and Biden will take over with resets of international and domestic issues.

“A battle for the idea of India is under way, between the tolerant constitutional convictions of its founders and the harsher Hindu majoritarianism that has lurked beneath the surface,” Burns said.

It is “testing India’s democratic guardrails in much the same way that the Trump era is testing America’s” but “either struggle will not be settled by outsiders – but both will shape the nature of Indian-American partnership in the years ahead,” he wrote.

In criticising Modi and the BJP, he listed the revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gave a special status to Kashmir, the CAA that he asserted “discriminates against Muslims seeking refuge in India”, feeding “tensions over disputed religious sites” and “pressures against critical journalists and academics”.

He wrote that Modi like Trump is “skilled in the business of political showmanship, with a keen eye for the vulnerabilities of established elites, and for the dark art of stoking nativist fires”.

Burns was also executive secretary of the State Department and special assistant to then Secretaries of State Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright, and minister-counselor for political affairs at the US embassy in Moscow. (IANS)

(Picture Courtesy: The New Indian Express)

The Truth Behind The Indian Farmers Protests: Experts Weigh In At Webinar By IAPC

“Media projection is more important on the Farmers’ agitation in India; and as a responsible media club, Indo American Press Club is prompted to impact the mainstream western media for global narrative,” Ambassador Pradeep Kumar Kapoor said while presiding over the Zoom Meeting hosted by Indo-American Press Club (IAPC) on “ What’s the truth behind the Indian Farmers Protest?” on Saturday 26th December 2020.
Since 26 November, farmers have been protesting outside Delhi’s borders, demanding the Farm Bills’ repeal. Indo American Press Club hosted several Zoom Meetings on this complex current issues facing the nation, with vibrant participation by diplomats and political analysts from different parts of the world.
Dr. Joseph Chalil, Chairman of Indo American Press Club introduced and welcomed the invited guest speakers. In his introductory remarks, Dr. Chalil shared with the audience about some of the initiatives under the new leadership, including the series of discussions by world renowned experts from around the world on several current topics including Indo-US Relationship under Biden-Harris administration.
Ambassador Pradeep Kapur, a Best Selling Author of Beyond Covid 19 Pandemic and former Ambassador of India to Chile and to Cambodia, and Secretary at the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, was the chair leading the discussions. In his initial observations, he said that the struggle of the Indian farmers has gained much global attention, but remain uncompromised. Instead of holding on the ‘no discussions, until repealing all the bill’ both the farmers and the government need direct discussion for an amicable settlement.
Mr. Yogesh Andley; Director, WHEELS Charitable Foundation, Co-founder of Nucleus Software, explained the background of APMC and the evolution of Mandis nearly 50 years ago. He educated the audience as to how the rice and wheat procured at Rs.18 or Rs.19 reaches at Rs.35 at retail level, but distributed at Rs.2 or Rs.3 providing food security to millions of Indians. He also expressed the fear of the farmers that the private sector may buy at higher prices in the beginning, but lower down the prices dangerously.
Mr. Khanderao Kand, Director of the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies (FIIDS), a Washington DC-based think tank working on India and Indian-related studies on socioeconomic, political and international security matters, elaborated about how the Indian situation has changed from a poor country to an exporter of food products like rice and wheat. He condensed the view that the Indian government is not closing the ‘Mandis’, but encouraging to open more local markets in each village. He stated that the farmers are afraid that the new laws will lead to contract farming and losing their farmlands to few corporates eventually.
Mr. Vimal Goyal; CPA and also industrialist from Long Island, NY expressed a different perspective on economic considerations. He affirmed the view that the latest one is the most comprehensive farmers bill, as the farmers were left behind with no recognitions so far. He was of the opinion that this bill is going to promote the abundance of rice and wheat. He also mentioned that the poor farmers do not have resources of e-commerce or transporting facilities, and hence they have to resort on the greedy private middlemen, most often.
Dr. Nishit Choksi; a world renowned Interventional Cardiologist from Michigan raised the question who is actually leading the protest- the poor farmers or the greedy middlemen or dalaals?. He narrated the history that no development happened in Punjab or Haryana during the last 30 years, even though many rivers and dams are provided years back. According to him, these laws are nothing new, but good for the nation: the government should properly educate the farmers.
Mr. Narender Kapoor expressed his views to escalate the importance of the situations rather than concentrating on academic discussions. He alerted that the movement and agitation shall not be vulnerable to hijacking.
Dr. Shyam Klvekar from London urged that we need more communication with end-users. Many of the participants raised different questions and were answered by the learned panelists. Ambassador Pradeep Kumar Kapoor summarized the salient features of the diplomatic and analytical discussions.
Dr. Renee Mehrra, a tenacious broadcaster with a burning passion and one of the most prominent broadcast journalists in the tri-state area was the moderator of the event balancing the various issues and views expressed by the participants. The zoom meeting was concluded with the vote of thanks expressed by Ajay Ghosh, Founder President and Present Director of IAPC.

Trump Honours Modi With Legion of Merit Award

Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi was presented with the highest degree Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit on Monday, December 21st in Washington, DC. The award is given only to the Head of State or Government. Modi was given the award in recognition of his steadfast leadership and vision that has accelerated India’s emergence as a global power.
US President Donald Trump on Monday presented the prestigious Legion of Merit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership in elevating strategic partnership of the two countries and emergence of India as a global power.

India’s Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, accepted the award on behalf of the prime minister from the US National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien at the White House.
President Trump “presented the Legion of Merit to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership in elevating the US-India strategic partnership,” O’Brien said in a tweet. Modi was presented with the highest degree Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit which is given only to the Head of State or Government.

He was given the award in recognition of his steadfast leadership and vision that has accelerated India’s emergence as a global power and elevated the strategic partnership between the United States and India to address global challenges.

O’Brien in another tweet said that Trump also presented the Legion of Merit to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The awards were received by their respective ambassadors in Washington DC.

President Trump “awarded the Legion of Merit to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for his leadership and vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” he said.

Trump awarded the Legion of Merit to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison for his leadership in addressing global challenges and promoting collective security, O’Brien tweeted.
The United States is the latest country to confer its highest award to the Indian prime minister. Other awards include Order of Abdulaziz Al Saud by Saudi Arabia in 2016, State Order of Ghazi Amir Amanullah Khan (2016), Grand Collar of the State of Palestine Award (2018), Order of Zayed Award by United Arab Emirates (2019), Order of St Andrew by Russia (2019), Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddin by Maldives (2019.

Amidst Pandemic, Poverty, Indian PM Lays Foundation For New Parliament Building

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday laid the foundation stone of the new Parliament building which will be equipped with all modern audio visual communication facilities and data network systems — making it a symbol of Atmanirbhar Bharat.

Modi also performed ‘Bhoomi Poojan’ for the construction of the four-storied new Parliament building, one of the most magnificent buildings in the country, would be built in an area of 64,500 square meter at an estimated cost of Rs. 971 crore.

While laying the foundation stone for the new Parliament Building for India, Modi said the new Parliament building, for which the ground-breaking ceremony was held, would channel and reflect the aspirations of 21st century India.

Each Member of Parliament would also be provided with a 40 square metre office space in the redeveloped Shram Shakti Bhawan, construction for which is slated to be completed by 2024. The new Parliament building has been designed by HCP Design and Management Pvt Ltd Ahmedabad and the construction would be carried out by Tata Projects Ltd, keeping the needs and requirements for the next 100 years in mind.

Critics say the 200 billion rupees ($2.7bn) that the Hindu-nationalist government is reportedly spending on the vast project could be better directed to fighting COVID-19 and repairing the pandemic-battered economy. The project has also run into legal trouble with several petitions in India’s top court questioning its validity on the grounds of land and environmental rules. The Supreme Court on Monday expressed unhappiness over the government’s rush to inaugurate the project before it had considered the pleas.

The ceremony was attended by Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sabha Harivansh, Union Minister Hardeep Puri and Pralhad Joshi along with senior members of the Union Cabinet, diplomats, and Members of Parliament. The ceremony included an all-faith prayer as well, while priests from the Sringeri Math, Karnataka, did the rituals.

“The new building will be the amalgamation of the new and the ancient, and reflects also the spirit of fostering change in oneself adapting to changing circumstances,” said Modi. “Our Constitution was framed and given to us in the current parliament building and it is the repository of much of our democratic legacy but it is important to be realistic as well. Over the last 100 years, several modifications have been made to the current building to the point where even the building requires rest. Which is why the decision was taken to construct a new Parliament building”.

The Prime Minister spoke of some of the new features added to the new building, including a space where people from constituencies could meet their MPs on visiting the building, something lacking in the current building.

The building will have a seating capacity for 888 members in the Lok Sabha chamber with an option to increase to 1,224 members during Joint Sessions. Similarly, the Rajya Sabha Chamber would have a seating capacity for 384 members.

India’s glorious heritage too will find a place in the building. Artisans and sculptors from all over the country would contribute to and showcase India’s cultural diversity in the building.

Modi called upon MPs to keep the spirit of optimism alive around democracy by being always accountable to people and the Constitution. He spoke of the spirit of conversation and dialogue, quoting the first Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Nanak Devji: “as long as the world exists, conversations must continue”, noting that it was the spirit of democracy, a comment significant with regard to the stalled negotiations between his own government and agitating farmers groups over three farmer-specific laws passed by Parliament in the last session. While there could be disagreements, there cannot be space for disconnect, he pointed out.

While pointing out that many nations felt Indian democracy would not last, the country had proven naysayers wrong, especially because of the ancient roots of democracy in India as elaborated in the concept of the 12th century Anubhava Mantapam set up by Basaveshwara; a 10th century stone inscription in a village near Chennai, describing a panchayat mahasabha and its elaborate rules, including the need for members to disclose their income; and the ancient republics of the Lichchavis and Shakyas.

“As a nation we must pledge to keep the spirit of democracy and public service alive,” he observed. “The day isn’t far when the world acknowledges that India is the mother of democracy,” he added.

Due for completion in 2022, when India marks 75 years of independence from Britain, the much larger new parliament will replace an old building that the government says is showing signs of “distress”. Designed by British architect Edwin Lutyens in the early 20th century, the current Parliament building is the commanding centerpiece of the British Raj, with the adjoining grand Rajpath boulevard, the president’s residence, government offices, the national museum and the India Gate war memorial.