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Coronavirus sends Modi govt from 'vocal for local' to relying on global aid

Despite being home to the world's largest vaccine industry, India's inoculation drive has suffered in recent weeks amid a shortage of key ingredients

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Narendra Modi | Coronavirus

Bloomberg 

Medical infra,
Packages of medical aid for India to help the country tackle the outbreak of the coronavirus disease are pictured before being loaded onto a plane at Zhukovsky Airport in Moscow Region (Photo: Reuters)

Less than a year after taking a sharp protectionist turn, the government of India’s Prime Minister is relying on overseas help to fight the world’s worst Covid-19 crisis.

Nations including the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany have pledged aid after a second wave of the pandemic overwhelmed India’s healthcare system. Even China, with whom New Delhi is entangled in a border standoff, has offered assistance.

The first flights from the U.S. are scheduled to arrive Thursday, bringing supplies including oxygen, components to make more than 20 million doses of vaccines, as well as courses of the antiviral drug remdesivir and rapid diagnostic tests. That follows criticism that hoarding by richer nations of vaccines and the raw materials to make them has prolonged the pandemic, contributing to fresh outbreaks in developing economies.

Despite being home to the world’s largest vaccine industry, India’s inoculation drive has suffered in recent weeks amid a shortage of key ingredients. As well, efforts to set up oxygen plants since October last year haven’t materialized because some vendors walked away while others still lack land or electricity connections.

Last year, Modi made “Vocal for Local” the mantra for India to beat the pandemic, aiming to boost domestic manufacturing of everything from personal protective equipment to ventilators. That followed the government’s move in recent years to raise import tariffs to curb cheap goods from abroad and support small- and medium-sized local manufacturers.

“The corona crisis has taught us the value of local manufacturing, local markets and local supply chains,” Modi had said in May. “Local is not only our need, it is also our responsibility.

Modi’s drive to support domestic manufacturing dovetailed with a global push in recent years toward reshoring industries and shortening supply chains amid trade disruptions from the pandemic, as well as the U.S.-China trade war waged by former President Donald Trump.

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First Published: Thu, April 29 2021. 17:14 IST
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