FPJ Edit: Testing times for Indo-US friendship

Vaccine manufacturer Serum Institute of India (SII) CEO Adar Poonawalla’s plaintive appeal to US President Joe Biden to lift the ban on exports from the US of key raw materials critical for vaccine manufacture has exposed yet another point of friction between US and India, which have seen a surge of tension after the recent regime change in the US.

“Respected @POTUS,” Poonawalla had tweeted, tagging the official handle of the US President, “if we are to truly unite in beating this virus, on behalf of the vaccine industry outside the US, I humbly request you to lift the embargo of raw material exports out of the US so that vaccine production can ramp up. Your administration has the details.” The SII is the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines and Poonawalla has been vocal about the bans imposed by the US and other advanced nations as they scramble to secure supplies for themselves at the cost of poorer nations.

Coming as it does on top of the shock announcement by Biden that US and NATO troops will pull out completely from Afghanistan by September and last week’s belligerent display of strength by the US navy in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off the coast of the Lakshadweep under its so-called ‘Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPs) – effectively, a unilateral military incursion into the territory of a nation which the US has claimed is its friend and ally – marks a new and belligerent turn to US posturing in the Indian Ocean region, which India has long considered its backyard.

While the Afghanistan pullout greatly increases the threat of terror attacks against India being mounted from Taliban-controlled territory, the FONOPS and the bellicose statement which accompanied it, cast doubts over the real strength of Indo-US friendship. Poonawalla’s appeal to lift the pre-emption of critical vaccine raw material underscores that when push comes to shove, the US will put its interests first and foremost. India is clearly not an equal partner in this alliance and it must think through the implications of committing itself more deeply into a US-led alliance like the Quad.

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