Indian Ambassador stresses China-India cooperation in COVID-19 fight

International Exchanges

Vikram Misri, the Indian ambassador to China, underscored the cooperation between India and China in combating the global COVID-19 pandemic at a virtual news briefing held on April 14, 2020. April 16, 2020

Indian Ambassador to China Vikram Misri stated that there is considerable space for China and India to cooperate in controlling the spread of COVID-19.

Indian Ambassador to China Vikram Misri speaks during an online press conference in Beijing, April 14, 2020. [Photo/Screenshot]

Addressing an online press conference on Tuesday, Misri said the immediate priority in the bilateral cooperation lies in the procurement of much-needed medical supplies from China for frontline healthcare workers fighting the outbreak in India.

China is one of the world's largest producers of medical products needed to combat the virus, including ventilators, protective suits and testing kits, and the two governments have been in close contact to ensure stable and orderly trade of these products, said the ambassador.

It is important that high-quality medical supplies continue to be available at reasonable and stable prices, Misri said. "We appreciate the efforts of the Chinese government to put in place mechanisms to guarantee the quality of the exported goods."

He also emphasized the urgency of establishing, or in some cases re-establishing, freight and cargo lines, which were disrupted by the initial impact of the pandemic. "Not only the production and procurement, but also the transport of the goods in an efficient and timely manner, is a very high priority."

In the medium- to long-term basis, there is enormous scope for India and China to cooperate in the scientific research to fight COVID-19, as well as general public health issues, Misri said.

"It would be mutually beneficial to intensify engagement between our biologists, epidemiologists and other scientists, as well as relevant national institutes in efforts including developing a vaccine," he said.

As of 10 a.m. CET on April 14, India had a total of 10,363 confirmed cases and 339 deaths, according to the daily COVID-19 report released by the WHO.

In a televised address on Tuesday, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an extension to the nationwide lockdown until May 3. The initial 21-day lockdown began on March 25.

Misri explained that despite different circumstances in the two countries, India can learn from China's prevention and control measures, with regard to movement and transport restrictions, the use of technology for surveillance, and the modification of factories to produce medical protective equipment.

"These are all distinctive features that we did notice, and that we can adopt in our own circumstances."

According to Misri, the Indian Embassy in China and government agencies back in his own country have taken part in video conferences about the sharing of China's experiences in tackling the COVID-19 crisis. "There may be more opportunities in the future to do so. And we look forward to participating in them."

This year marks the 70th anniversary of China-India diplomatic ties. Misri said the two sides had agreed to celebrate the event through a symbolic 70 activities. "Obviously, with the challenges that this outbreak has now presented us with, we may not necessarily be able to undertake every activity, but it remains our intention."

"This is a very important occasion, and we remain committed to observing it in an appropriate manner. We hope that we can resume engagement at the earliest possible time, whenever it is safe and healthy to do so," the ambassador added.

During the almost-hourlong virtual news briefing, Misri also showcased India's efforts focusing both on internal and external cooperation while fighting the global pandemic.

Responding to widely-circulated speculation that India would become one of the hardest-hit countries by the pandemic, Misri argued that the proactive measures adopted by the government since its first case was detected on Jan. 17 have safeguarded 672 out of 750 districts in the country from being severely affected. This is thanks to the gradually tightened travel restrictions and the regional-to-nationwide lockdowns.

"The lockdown itself is not a beginning but continuation of our epidemic control strategy and what is notable is that I think it has wide political consensus and public support behind it," the ambassador expounded.

The country currently has around 85,000 isolation beds and 8,500 beds in ICUs. To better meet the demand, another 40,000 refurbished isolation beds and 36,000 additional ICU beds will be made available for treatment.

Meanwhile, amid one of the busiest seasons for the movement of the labor force, India has set up more than 27,000 camps to house around 1.5 million migrant workers. It has also issued $22 billion in aid to vulnerable groups, such as farmers and laborers, to alleviate the challenging circumstances.

According to Misri, as one of the largest pharmaceutical producers in the world, India has not only delivered its key products to partners such as the United States, Brazil and Israel, but also another 25 countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean region.

It has been delivering medical assistance to Myanmar and Mauritius and been able to provide essentials to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Bhutan when necessary. It has also provided supplies to several countries including Syria, Afghanistan and Nepal.

"We manage to respond to the needs not only for our Indian neighbors but also many other countries around the world, in terms of delivering essential assistance," the ambassador said before quoting Prime Minister Modi, "It is for us to take precautions but not to panic."