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A bridge over troubled waters: How India and US are working together amid COVID


As the coronavirus ravaged the US last year, our friends in India rallied to our assistance, supplying critical medicines, airlifting PPE to our frontlines, and partnering with the US government on vaccine research. Now, India’s hour of need has arrived, and the US is committed to doing its part to help an important partner.

With India now reporting more than 4 lakh Covid-19 cases daily, both US government and businesses are working together to marshal their resources and mount a historic response. This week, the US Chamber of Commerce, with support from Business Roundtable, launched the Global Task Force (GTF) on Pandemic Response, a PPP to mobilise and deliver resources in areas of the highest need around the world. The response has been overwhelming, with dozens of US companies pledging support.

GTF is in regular contact with US and Indian officials to understand where the needs are greatest. With leadership from the Chamber and its US-India Business Council, GTF launched an all-out effort to source and distribute 1,000 ventilators through the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation. Fifteen US companies donated more than $30 million to fund ventilator production and Medtronic has pledged to take it from there — manufacturing top-of-the-line Puritan Bennett 980 ventilators, managing transportation and logistics, and mobilising teams to provide installation, technical support, and training for clinicians. The first ventilators arrived in India this week, and all 1,000 will be delivered within the next month.

India is also in need of oxygen concentrators. GTF is providing 25,000 oxygen concentrators by end-May, with more than 1,000 already delivered.

For executives at many US businesses, India’s crisis is personal. American businesses employ millions of Indian workers, partner with thousands Indian businesses, and invest tens of millions of dollars in the Indian economy, including in R&D for the medical treatments and vaccines needed to combat the pandemic. And the commitment goes far deeper than financial interests. US companies are dedicated to their employees and the communities they serve, alongside their long-term commitment to India’s well-being and growth.

As part of GTF, we have launched the chief human resources officer (CHRO) India Action Group. It brings together corporate HR leaders from companies like Accenture, Microsoft, United Healthcare and Walmart to curate best practices to help their team members, such as telemedicine services, home health kits and informational videos that can be sent to employees.

Together, we can make more of an impact, not only by sharing information and resources within the business community, but also between businesses and government. On its part, the Joe Biden administration has also mounted a welcome response, clearing tens of millions of vaccines for export to India and other countries, and offering immediate shipments of oxygen support, vaccine manufacturing supplies and more.

While our task force is currently prioritising pandemic response efforts in India, we are mindful that some other countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Britain and Canada — are facing devastating new waves of the pandemic. As the world’s hub for vaccine manufacturing, India will be a key partner in managing the pandemic around the globe — not just within its own borders.

As we mount our response, we anticipate that GTF’s efforts to aid India will serve as a playbook for responding to other emerging hotspots going forward.

The writer is president-CEO, US Chamber of Commerce

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