Indian pharmaceutical companies, the well-known for producing affordable low-cost medicines, will play an important role in the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic that has affected over 2.5 million people across the world, India's top diplomat here has said.
India's Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu also underlined that as global strategic partners, India and the US are prepared to face this public health crisis together.
India, one of the largest producers of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, has seen a spurt in demand in recent weeks. India has sent the drug to over 50 countries over the last few days, including the United States, he said on Tuesday.
Hydroxychloroquine has been identified by the US Food and Drug Administration as a possible treatment for the COVID-19 and it is being tested on more than 1,500 coronavirus patients in New York.
"Indian pharmaceutical companies are global leaders in producing affordable low-cost medicines and will play an important role in the fight against this pandemic,” Sandhu said in his virtual conversation with Asia Society Policy Institute Senior Fellow Puneet Talwar.
In fact, India and the US have robust partnership in the area of health and scientific research, which will be critical in the fight against this disease that has killed over 171,000 people and affected over 2.5 million globally.
"Perhaps the most successful tangible example of our successful bilateral cooperation in recent years was the development of the rotavirus vaccine, which saves thousands of lives every year,” he said.
Rotavirus vaccine is a vaccine used to protect against rotavirus infections, which are the leading cause of severe diarrhea among young children.
"Our network of scientific institutions, including the Indian Council of Medical Research and NIH (National Institute of Health) and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) in the US are in touch with each other. This is part of our longstanding cooperation, which has been energised in the context of this pandemic,” Sandhu said.
Indian and the US companies are also collaborating in the co-development of a vaccine. The US India Science and Technology Endowment Fund has called for proposals that would enable scientists to collaborate, to carry out joint research and to also work towards the development of new technologies, to fight COVID-19.
Observing that the shape of the world that will emerge from the pandemic may be unfamiliar, he said “we need” to navigate through this crisis through a coordinated response and individual countries need to rely on their strengths.
“As global strategic partners India and the US are prepared to face this together. We are ready to deploy a full sprint of our partnership to fight this pandemic as Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) has said,” Sandhu added.
The outbreak of coronavirus is an unprecedented challenge in an increasingly interconnected world.
The US has been badly affected by the deadly coronavirus as it has claimed 45,000 lives and infected over 824,000 people in the country.
“The rapid spread of virus across the globe in a relatively short period of time showed that the virus was ahead of us,” he said, noting that governments across the world are making efforts to slow the spread and flatten the curve so that the medical infrastructure is not overburdened.
Responding to a question, Sandhu said that given the transnational nature of this pandemic and India's responsibility as a first responder in the region, which it has always done in the time of crisis, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the initiative to invite the other seven South Asian country leaders for a video conference on March 15.
The prime minister took the initiative to establish a SAARC emergency response fund with an initial contribution of USD 10 million from India. This has since become operational, he said, adding that all the other countries have also contributed subsequently.
Nepal and Afghanistan pledged USD 1 million each, Maldives committed USD 200,000, Bhutan USD 100,000, Bangladesh USD 1.5 million, Sri Lanka USD 5 million and Pakistan pledged USD 3 million to the fund.
Founded in 1985, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a regional intergovernmental organisation and geopolitical union of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
“We are working to create a SAARC platform and we are regularly sharing ideas and proposals for diagnostics and medical interventions with other countries,” he said. In the extraordinary virtual G-20 summit, Prime Minister Modi had taken the initiative and has also underlined the responsibility of the G-20 countries in combating this disease, he said.