Boosting cooperation on COVID-19 vaccines to be focus of Jaishankar's 5-day visit to US

It will be the first visit by a senior Indian minister to the US after President Joe Biden assumed office in January.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar (Photo | PTI)
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar (Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: Procurement of coronavirus vaccines and raw materials to boost domestic production is set to be a major focus area of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar's five-day visit to the United States beginning Monday.

Announcing the visit, the Ministry of External Affairs said Jaishankar will hold discussions with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and meet other senior officials of the Biden administration during his visit from May 24 to 28.

It will be the first visit by a senior Indian minister to the US after President Joe Biden assumed office in January.

It is learnt that Jaishankar is likely to press for further speeding up of the supply of raw materials from the US to boost vaccine production in India besides exploring the option of joint production.

There is a view in India that the Defence Production Act (DPA) of the US has put some restrictions on the export of raw materials by American companies.

In early February, the US government invoked the DPA to limit exports of the raw materials to expand domestic vaccine production.

Hit by a devastating second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, India has been focusing on ramping up domestic production of COVID-19 vaccines as well their procurement from abroad.

"In Washington DC, the External Affairs Minister will hold discussions with his counterpart Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

He will also be meeting Cabinet members and Senior Officials of the Administration dealing with the bilateral relationship," the MEA said in a statement.

It said he will have two interactions with business forums on economic and COVID-related cooperation between the two countries.

Jaishankar had met Blinken earlier this month on the sidelines of a meeting of foreign ministers of G-7 countries in London.

The MEA said Jaishankar will also meet UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in New York.

Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Arindam Bagchi said on Thursday that India is engaged with American entities for procurement of COVID-19 vaccines and their possible manufacturing in India subsequently.

"We remain engaged with US entities on the prospect of procuring vaccines from the US and also perhaps manufacturing them in India subsequently," Bagchi said.

The US announced earlier this week that it will share an additional 20 million coronavirus vaccine doses with other countries in addition to the 60 million it has already committed.

The Biden administration has not yet announced the possible recipients of the vaccine doses.

Recently, Charge D'Affaires of the US embassy Daniel B Smith said the US was looking at joint production of Johnson and Johnson's COVID-19 vaccines in India and ways to help manufacturers like the Serum Institute of India (SII) to boost production.

As India was facing a rapid increase in coronavirus infections, the US sent six plane loads of life-saving supplies in support of the country's fight against the pandemic.

Earlier this month, the US sent to India raw materials for vaccine production which it said would enable the manufacture of 20 million doses of the Covishield vaccines.

Providing raw materials for the production of coronavirus vaccines was a major component of the Biden administration's announcement on medical aid to India.

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