The US administration under President Joe Biden is reported to have agreed to clear the export to India of raw materials for the manufacture of vaccines. It is also providing other assistance required for the fight against Covid-19. Unfortunately, this has been done after an early ‘America First’ response that would have shamed even Donald Trump. This has naturally not gone down with the Indian people and is an indication of how little understanding there is in the US establishment of the potential that exists in the two countries’ relationship. This has been a particular flaw in the Democrats, who are supposed to be ideologically closer to India because of their ‘better understanding of diversity’. Ironically, the Republicans – more US-centric in their ideology – have had better relations with India owing largely to their pragmatism. Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to be anywhere in sync with the Indian psyche, possibly because he belonged to the generation that picked up on yoga and Indian spirituality.
Compare Biden’s reluctance with China’s immediate response to the Indian situation – it offered whatever help it could. With this it scored a point and India would do well to obtain such assistance in a symbolic way as a token of its appreciation. More importantly, the nations that were the quickest to respond were its small neighbours like the UAE, Singapore, etc. This is the result of many years spent by India in expanding beyond the established blocs. The enhanced interaction with the Gulf nations beyond just oil and remittances, the ‘Look East Policy’, etc., are proving now fruitful in many ways. Earlier, in terms of the neighbourhood, there was too much focus on Pakistan. In comparison, just the improvement of ties with Bangladesh has paid excellent dividends.
Thankfully, greater maturity has been displayed by Britain and the EU, where Covid has played tremendous havoc. The crisis should bring home to the people that it’s a small world and everybody should be ready to help. It also justifies India’s decision to have provided vaccines to small and poor countries in the spirit of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’, instead of hoarding these for its own uses. After the crisis, there will be greater awareness of what the priorities are when it comes to diplomatic relations.