Indian envoy to China Photograph:( WION )
Indian ambassador to China, Vikram Misri said at the height of the outbreak in China, New Delhi 'had offered and provided medical assistance' to the country
India has placed an order of 7-8 million PPEs and 1,000 ventilators from China and the Indian mission in China are in touch with Chinese authorities regarding the identification of bonafide suppliers.
Speaking exclusively to WION'sPrincipal diplomatic correspondent Sidhant Sibal, Indian ambassador to China, Vikram Misri said at the height of the outbreak in China, New Delhi "had offered and provided medical assistance" to the country as well. He also spoke about how the mission coordinated the evacuation plan of over 750 Indians and foreigners and how diplomats in the mission are dealing with the crisis.
WION: How can India and China cooperate in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis?
Vikram Misri: In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, there is considerable space for India and China to cooperate in controlling the spread of this pandemic and there are immediate, short-term as well as medium and long term aspects to our cooperation.
When China was at the height of dealing with this outbreak, we had offered and provided medical assistance. Now, India is in the process of commercially procuring a large number of these supplies.
China happens to be one of the largest producers of a number of these products. Thus, in the immediate short-term there is an opportunity for both countries to cooperate in facilitating our procurement of medical equipment and products from China in a stable and orderly manner.
We have been in touch with Chinese authorities regarding the identification of bonafide suppliers. That quality materials are available at reasonable and stable prices and that these are enabled to be transported in an efficient and timely manner to India is a priority.
At the same time, there are a number of Chinese companies whose products have been sold in the past to India and whose products have been licensed for import into India by the concerned Indian regulatory authorities.
However, recent regulations have restricted the number of companies from China that could export to India.
Given the fact that some products are already licensed for import into India, it would be a welcome step for the concerned authorities such as the National Medical Product Authority to expedite the registration of those companies and products that already have a large number of orders in the pipeline from India.
In the medium to longer-term, as both India and China are repositories of large pools of scientific and technological manpower, there is scope for both countries to cooperate on the Research and Development (R&D) aspects of dealing with COVID-19 virus, apart from other public health issues. It would be mutually beneficial to intensify engagements between our biologists, epidemiologists, scientists and relevant national institutes in these fields.
WION: What is the quantum of the medical and protective supplies being procured from China?
Vikram Misri: India and China are cooperating on the procurement of the much needed medical equipment and products by our health care fraternity in India.
These include medical kits and equipment, ventilators, testing kits, PPEs, etc. China happens to be one of the largest producers of a number of these products, and the two governments have been in touch with each other to ensure stable and orderly purchase and procurement of these items.
The embassy has so far placed orders for around 7 to 8 million PPEs and about a 1000 ventilators. More orders are in the pipeline and at various stages of procurement. This is an extremely dynamic process, and it would not be appropriate for me at this time to get into the specifics of all the numbers.
WION: The role played by the Indian mission in Beijing and consulates in various parts of the country from evacuation in February to now?
Vikram Misri: The embassy of India in Beijing and our Consulates-General in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong have been playing a role in India’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.
As the outbreak first took place here, our initial concern and attention was focused on the welfare of Indians in China.
We had been closely following the developments here since January, and, on 23 January 2020, set up dedicated 24x7 hotlines and email desks for Indians looking for advice and information on the evolving epidemic situation. Thereafter, as Hubei province went into lockdown, we facilitated the evacuation of over 750 Indian and foreign nationals stranded there and wishing to return home.
Our hotlines continue to be operational. Consular officers also remain directly engaged with members of the community.
I myself recently had an interaction via video conference with representatives of the Indian community from across the country on 17 April 2020.
Our Mission and Consulates continue to remain committed to extending consular services and ensuring the welfare of the Indian community in China during these challenging times.
As the number of cases has increased in India, we have been actively involved in the procurement process for essential medical and protective supplies that India needs to fight the virus, including, as stated earlier, ventilators, testing kits, PPEs, etc.
We are now at the start of what promises to be an extremely intense logistical exercise. As the orders get ready to be shipped, we will have flights taking off on almost a daily basis from Shanghai and Guangzhou. We are engaged with Chinese officials on all aspects of this process, including flight clearances, customs clearances of goods, etc.
WION: How are the Indian diplomats faring. How tough have the past few months been?
Vikram Misri: A critical aspect in all our work has been to ensure that none of our diplomats and staff posted here in Beijing or in the Consulates fall sick.
Speaking for the Mission here in Beijing, I can say that we put in place stringent best practices for preventing infection. These were scrupulously followed by all and I am happy to note that we have been successful in preserving the good health of all of our colleagues so far.
This is an unprecedented situation for most of us and things have been generally tough on the personal and professional front.
But the way I see it, as I am sure most of my colleagues do as well, is that the work that we are doing right now is fundamental to ensuring India’s successful response to the COVID-19 crisis, and this call to duty is not a privilege available to all in the ordinary course of events.
We, therefore, hope to do our best and prove equal to the challenge.