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Russian emergency flights with material to counter second Covid wave land in New Delhi

Two urgent flights operated by the Russian EMERCOM arrived here today bringing oxygen concentrators, lung ventilation equipment, bedside monitors, medicines, including Coronavir, and other essential pharmaceutical items as emergency humanitarian aid from Russia to India to combat the second wave of Covid-19(Pic: Courtesy Twitter/@NKudashev)

India’s “strategic autonomy” doctrine of establishing partnerships and not alliances driven by its domestic priorities appears to have paid off with Russia rushing tonnes of material to combat the second Covid wave, a day after the United States also decided to cooperate in expanding New Delhi’s vaccine output.

In a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Russia was rushing emergency humanitarian aid to India, which was battling a vicious second wave of Covid-19. In particular, the Russian President informed PM Modi that two flights of the Russian Emergencies Ministry would be airborne to deliver 22 tonnes of necessary equipment. These included 20 oxygen production units, 75 lung ventilators, 150 medical monitors and 200,000 packs of medicine. Both the relief planes have landed in New Delhi on Thursday morning, the Russian news website Sputnik reported. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

During their conversation, the two leaders welcomed the registration of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in India and noted its high efficiency and safety, a Russian official statement said. They also expressed their satisfaction that the Russian Direct Investment Fund had reached an agreement with Indian companies to produce Sputnik V vaccines from May.

Also read: Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine can beat new Indian Covid strain, says developer

In a series of tweets PM Modi acknowledged that combating Covid-19 was an important part of the conversation.  “Had an excellent conversation with my friend President Putin today. We discussed the evolving COVID-19 situation, and I thanked President Putin for Russia's help and support in India's fight against the pandemic,” the Prime Minister said.


He further pointed out that discussions on key strategic areas would be covered under a new 2+2 comprehensive mechanism, where the foreign and defence ministers will hold joint discussions, instead of separate talks.

Unloading of the aid in full swing (Pic: Courtesy Twitter/@@NKudashev)

“To add further momentum to our strong strategic partnership, President Putin and I have agreed to establish a 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue between our Foreign and Defence Ministers” the PM tweeted. The 2+2 format has been introduced after US and India began their talks under a similar construct.

Finally, PM Modi pointed out that dialogue in more new areas will continue, beyond the collaboration in vaccines and medicines, which is a new domain in the India-Russia strategic equation.

Also read: Bangladesh approves Russian vaccine Sputnik for emergency use

“We also reviewed our diverse bilateral cooperation, especially in the area of space exploration and renewable energy sector, including in hydrogen economy. Our cooperation on Sputnik-V vaccine will assist humanity in battling the pandemic.”

The arrival of the Russian flights comes at a time when the US has also agreed to supply raw material and other forms of assistance to expand the production of vaccines, which would be required as India expands its vaccinations for all adults from May 1. Besides, several developing nations, including neighbouring states have been counting on Indian vaccination supplies. Analysts point out that the essential humanitarian supplies pouring in from across the globe, at a time when Indian medical requirements have soared exponentially vindicates India’s “strategic autonomy,” not to fall prey to ideological and geopolitical divides.

Ahead of the arrival of Sputnik V vaccines which will follow the arrival of the emergency flights, Russia’s Tass news agency quoted Alexander Gintsburg, director of the Gamaleya Center, the vaccine developer, as saying that the Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine gives sufficient antibodies to combat the virus’ Indian strain.

"If necessary, we will combat the Indian strain by high titers of antibodies triggered by the Sputnik V vaccine. As a rule, it generates antibodies 20, 30, 80 times as much as necessary to neutralize the biggest amount of the virus in an infected organism. Sputnik V will be effective against the Indian strain," Gintsburg said on Tuesday.