On April 30, Super Galaxy, a huge US military plane, landed in Delhi, bringing oxygen cylinders, hospital equipment and Covid test kits. More flights with aid material are on the way to India. And, thereby hangs a tale.
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On April 22, Edward Price, the US state department spokesman, was asked at a press briefing about “the horrible surge” in the coronavirus infections in India and why the US was not lifting the ban on exports of raw materials for vaccine production. He uttered no word of sympathy, while offering a long explanation as to why it was “in the interests of the rest of the world to see Americans vaccinated”.
A storm of protests and criticism erupted in India; influential members of the US political and corporate establishment implored their government to change its position. Four days later, on April 26, a much-chastened Price spoke about the importance of the “Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership” with India, providing details of how the administration planned to help India address the terrible pandemic.
President Joe Biden’s “America is back” mantra — which, for a moment, sounded more like Trump’s “America First”— re-assumed a liberal and humanitarian patina, thus indicating Washington’s right instincts for enlightened global leadership. In a telephone conversation with Prime Minister Modi, Biden acknowledged India’s assistance to the US in the early phase of the pandemic and expressed his determination to stand with India in times of her need.
After intensive inter-agency consultations in recent days, the US government came up with a positive response to India’s requirements. The package of assistance has several elements:
First, the US Defence Production Act’s provisions are being reconsidered. The authorities have agreed to approve the supply of filters needed for the manufacture of the Covishield vaccine.
Second, it is estimated that the US will have 60 million surplus doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine by June, which it will not use at home. Subject to clearance by the FDA, this will be released for use by other countries. Whether some of them will be sent to India is not clear yet.
Third, a comprehensive plan has been prepared for the supply of oxygen-related equipment, including generation systems, cylinders and setting up of field hospitals with oxygen beds.
Four, a special focus is on stepping up commercial supplies of therapeutics, especially remdesivir. Immediate shipment of 1,00,000 vials by Gilead Sciences has been arranged, with another 2,00,000 vials to be made available by end-May.
Five, the US Development Corporation will fund the Indian vaccine firm BioE to expand its manufacturing capacity. This is covered under the Quad’s Vax Partnership, enabling India and the other three partners (US, Japan, Australia) to produce and distribute at least 1 billion doses by end-2022.
It is noteworthy that the Pentagon has been actively involved in helping India. Defence Secretary Llyod Austin observed that the department of defence has been directed to use its resources to provide frontline health workers with needed materials.
What is of immediate impact is the robust engagement of corporate, mostly Big Tech, America. Google, Microsoft and Apple — as well as others — Amazon, Proctor & Gamble and more — are coming forward to commit their resources.
It’s a mix of altruism and pragmatism: US tech has large, valuable investments in India, especially Bangalore, which need protection. The US-India Strategic Partnership Forum is helping with 12 ISO containers for the transport of oxygen to India. The US-India Business Council has appealed to its members to offer assistance. On April 27, Secretary of State Antony Blinken convened a Zoom meeting of business leaders. An Indian participant reported that “a massive effort and dollars” have been invested in supplying assistance urgently.
It is easy to see behind America’s turn around the benign hand of the Indian diaspora, backed by friendly American public figures and proactive diplomacy by India. Pramila Jayapal, the Congresswoman who riled the Modi government for her criticism of the human rights situation, raised her voice, stressing that it was both the right and necessary thing to assist India.
Even after the havoc wreaked by the second wave became clear, there was a disturbing “stony silence” in Washington, said an expert. The US should realise that the lingering anti-American sentiment (which has a long legacy) has not disappeared.
It would be unwise to underestimate its strength. Fortunately, the India-US partnership is now so multi-faceted, deep and robust that it can withstand minor turbulence. The ease and candour with which communications occurred from the US President down to his Deputy Secretary of State and their Indian counterparts, showcased the vibrance of bilateral ties.
India-US relations are in a good place now. They are set to deepen further. When it comes to health-related cooperation, the US needs to internalise that helping India is really helping the world. Vaccines produced in India are meant not only for Indians but for the people of Africa, Asia and Latin America.
That is why all influential figures in Washington should support the initiative by India and South Africa to seek a temporary IPR waiver under the TRIPS agreement. Many are already doing so enthusiastically — for they know that this is a potential game-changer. Let the magic of how India helped Africa vanquish the HIV/AIDS menace be recreated.
Darknet, also known as dark web or darknet market, refers to the part of the internet that is not indexed or accessible through traditional search engines. It is a network of private and encrypted websites that cannot be accessed through regular web browsers and requires special software and configuration to access.
The darknet is often associated with illegal activities such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services, although not all sites on the darknet are illegal.
Examples of darknet markets include Silk Road, AlphaBay, and Dream Market, which were all shut down by law enforcement agencies in recent years.
These marketplaces operate similarly to e-commerce websites, with vendors selling various illegal goods and services, such as drugs, counterfeit documents, and hacking tools, and buyers paying with cryptocurrency for their purchases.
Anonymity: Darknet allows users to communicate and transact with each other anonymously. Users can maintain their privacy and avoid being tracked by law enforcement agencies or other entities.
Access to Information: The darknet provides access to information and resources that may be otherwise unavailable or censored on the regular internet. This can include political or sensitive information that is not allowed to be disseminated through other channels.
Freedom of Speech: The darknet can be a platform for free speech, as users are able to express their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship or retribution.
Secure Communication: Darknet sites are encrypted, which means that communication between users is secure and cannot be intercepted by third parties.
Illegal Activities: Many darknet sites are associated with illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services. Such activities can attract criminals and expose users to serious legal risks.
Scams: The darknet is a hotbed for scams, with many fake vendors and websites that aim to steal users’ personal information and cryptocurrency. The lack of regulation and oversight on the darknet means that users must be cautious when conducting transactions.
Security Risks: The use of the darknet can expose users to malware and other security risks, as many sites are not properly secured or monitored. Users may also be vulnerable to hacking or phishing attacks.
Stigma: The association of the darknet with illegal activities has created a stigma that may deter some users from using it for legitimate purposes.
AI, or artificial intelligence, refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence, such as recognizing speech, making decisions, and understanding natural language.
Virtual assistants: Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are examples of virtual assistants that use natural language processing to understand and respond to users’ queries.
Recommendation systems: Companies like Netflix and Amazon use AI to recommend movies and products to their users based on their browsing and purchase history.
Efficiency: AI systems can work continuously without getting tired or making errors, which can save time and resources.
Personalization: AI can help provide personalized recommendations and experiences for users.
Automation: AI can automate repetitive and tedious tasks, freeing up time for humans to focus on more complex tasks.
Job loss: AI has the potential to automate jobs previously performed by humans, leading to job loss and economic disruption.
Bias: AI systems can be biased due to the data they are trained on, leading to unfair or discriminatory outcomes.
Safety and privacy concerns: AI systems can pose safety risks if they malfunction or are used maliciously, and can also raise privacy concerns if they collect and use personal data without consent.