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'Not Looking at it in Policy Terms': Foreign Secretary Shringla on Foreign Assistance to India

File photo of Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla

File photo of Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla

His response came to questions on whether there was a shift in India's policy of not accepting foreign aid that was enunciated after the 2004 tsunami.

The coronavirus pandemic has triggered an unprecedented situation and India is not looking at medical supplies and assistance by its partners and friends in terms of any policy framework, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Thursday. At a media briefing, he said India had supplied essential pharmaceutical products including hydroxychloroquine, paracetamol and even Remdesivir to geographies across the globe in view of the pandemic and the countries have now come forward to help India.

His response came to questions on whether there was a shift in India's policy of not accepting foreign aid that was enunciated after the 2004 tsunami. "We have given assistance; we are getting assistance. It shows an interdependent world. It shows a world that is working with each other," Shringla said.

Around 40 nations across the world including all major powers like the US, Russia, Japan, France, Germany and the UK have announced medical supplies and assistance to help India deal with the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic that has devastated many parts of the country. Shringla said India was at the forefront of generating the consciousness that the pandemic cannot be dealt with by individual countries and that a collective approach was required to contain it.

"They are extending support as they feel that this is the time we must help India. 'India has helped us and we must help India'. So I do not think we are looking at it in policy terms," the foreign secretary said. "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," he added.

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Shringla also mentioned that US President Joe Biden and many of India's partner nations and others, while announcing assistance to the country, have appreciated New Delhi's support to them last year and said they are extending the help in return. "We are facing a situation that perhaps we have not seen before and may not see in the future. This is an unprecedented situation. We are dealing with the situation which is quite exceptional," he said.

"We have certainly prioritised items that we need. We are sourcing these items from many of the countries. But many countries have come forward on their own to offer assistance," he said. The foreign secretary also referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's regional and global outreach in confronting the challenges arising out of the pandemic under a collective approach.

"The prime minister talked about the fact that countries need to come together to cooperate. That is why we initiated the SAARC conference on COVID-19 in March last year when it was a very new concept. We then initiated a call for a G-20 summit," he said. "We have extensively gone forward to assist countries which are very far and away," he added.

The foreign secretary also said that India was looking at procuring ready-to-use coronavirus vaccines considering the huge domestic requirement. "It is an interdependent world where we have given and we are taking also. Vaccine has to be seen in the context of international cooperation," he said.

He said earlier India was in a position to supply vaccines and today its needs are far greater "All our partners understand that," he said. As India battles a devastating second wave of coronavirus pandemic, countries around the world have announced sending medical supplies to help it tide over the situation.

The leading countries that have announced assistance to India include the US, Russia, France, Germany, Australia, Ireland, Belgium, Romania, Luxembourg, Singapore, Portugal, Sweden, New Zealand, Kuwait and Mauritius.

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