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US billionaire Vinod Khosla joins Google’s Pichai to bankroll India’s bulk imports of oxygen, drugs

Indian-Americans ready to send bulk oxygen and medicines to help India fight Covid-19

Concerned over the devastating second coronavirus wave sweeping across the land of their origin, Indian-Americans are rising to the occasion to organise assistance in the hour of crisis.  

U.S. Representative Ro Khanna, Democratic vice chair of the Congressional Caucus on India, said Indian-American billionaire and Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla and top Indian-American honchos at Google, IBM and Microsoft are working closely with the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on India.

The group is trying to match Indian hospitals and other facilities with supplies of oxygen and other urgently needed medical equipment, and pushing the White House to do more for India.

In a message on Twitter, Khosla has offered to fund the bulk import of oxygen and other supplies to India. Khanna said Khosla has offered to underwrite the initiative.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest U.S. business lobby, and CEOs from 40 firms on Monday launched a separate task force focused on providing India with critical medical supplies, oxygen and other assistance. It includes a new portal where U.S. firms can offer in-kind donations.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has announced Rs 152 crore assistance from the company for providing medical supplies and to help poor communities in India. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella also tweeted that the software giant will continue to support relief work and purchase of oxygen concentrators. 

The Indian-American caucus is meeting with the Indian ambassador this week to see what else can be done to speed distribution of unused AstraZeneca vaccines and other supplies to India, Khanna said.

It has also been pushing the White House to offer more help to India, the biggest democracy in the world.

The 40 lakh strong people of Indian origin in the US are a powerful political force and dozens of Indian Americans hold key posts in the Joe Biden administration.

"The administration's initial response has been very encouraging, but the hope is that they will continue by releasing the AstraZeneca vaccines," Khanna said.

The White House on Monday said it would share up to 60 million doses of AstraZeneca Plc's coronavirus vaccine with other countries as soon as the next few weeks, but gave no details on which countries would receive them, or when.

Khanna said he is pushing Biden, a fellow Democrat, to lean on drugmakers Pfizer and Moderna to agree to a voluntary waiver of IP rights for six months to a year, to help India boost its domestic production of vaccines, according to a Reuters report.

Reuters cited US administration officials as saying Moderna has already promised not to enforce patents in India during the pandemic.

The United States has faced criticism in India where local vaccine makers struggled to buy raw materials from U.S. suppliers. Administration officials insist there is no export ban in place, although the U.S. Defense Production Act allows the government to give preference to U.S. manufacturers.

Blinken holds talks with U.S.-India biz council

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken met virtually with leaders of American business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the U.S.-India Business Council on Tuesday to discuss how the United States and India can leverage the expertise and capabilities of the U.S. private sector to support urgent COVID-19 relief efforts in India.

Secretary Blinken expressed appreciation to U.S. industry partners and reaffirmed that the United States stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the people of India as we continue to work toward solutions for the COVID-19 crisis, Price added.

PM Modi talks with President Biden

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a telephone conversation with President Joe Biden on Monday evening, a day after the US agreed to lift the ban on raw material required to produce the Covishield vaccine at the Serum Institute of India. The ban which was part of the America First policy had slowed down production of vaccines in India.

PM Narendra Modi said that he had a "fruitful conversation" with the US President about the prevailing Covid-19 situation in India and the United States.

"My discussion with @POTUS @JoeBiden also underscored the importance of smooth and efficient supply chains of vaccine raw materials and medicines. India-US healthcare partnership can address the global challenge of COVID-19," the Indian PM added.

He thanked Biden for the support that the US has decided to provide India in its fight against Covid-19.