The cargo, that came as a grant from Moscow, followed a telephone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi late on Wednesday, in which the two leaders decided to upgrade contacts and institute a “2 2” format of talks between Foreign and Defence Ministers.
“Further development of bilateral relations of the especially privileged strategic partnership was discussed, including a schedule of contacts at various levels,” a statement issued by the Kremlin said, noting that Mr. Modi had thanked Mr. Putin for the aid, which is in “great demand” in India.
The Russian flights operated by Emercom included 20 oxygen production units, 75 lung ventilators, 150 medical monitors and 2,00,000 packs of medicine.
As The Hindu had reported earlier, Russia decided to cut back on a promise to deliver 3,00,000-4,00,000 injections of remdesivir produced in Russia as part of a compulsory licence as it would violate the U.S. patent, and India now hopes to source about 4,50,000 vials directly from remdesivir developer Gilead Sciences Inc. in the U.S.
The Russian aid is part of an international effort that now involves about 40 countries, and has meant a major policy shift for the government, which has refused to accept foreign aid for more than 17 years, as India faces an unprecedented number of coronavirus cases, deaths and a shortage of oxygen and medicines.
“Russia is closely watching the situation in India, which is becoming more and more alarming due to the Ccronavirus pandemic,” said Ambassador Nikolai Kudashev in a video statement, adding that Russia had appreciated India’s gesture in 2020 of making stocks of the drug HCQ available to the country.
“The only way to defeat coronavirus is to unite and help each other,” he said.
India and Russia are also discussing how to ramp up production of Sputnik V vaccine, which is also being accepted in parts of the subcontinent like Bangladesh. Indian companies are expected to produce about 850 million doses of the vaccine annually, with production expected to begin in May.
“The leaders welcomed the registration of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine in India and noted its high efficiency and safety,” the Kremlin statement on the Modi-Putin conversation read.
The decision to begin a 2 2 format of talks between Delhi and Moscow is significant as it comes ahead of a planned visit by Mr. Putin for the annual dialogue in the second half of the year. At present, India holds annual “2 2” consultations with its Quad partners — the U.S., Australia and Japan.
An MEA statement said PM Modi said he looks forward to Mr. Putin’s visit “which would provide an occasion to continue their personal and trusted conversation”. “President Putin assured the Prime Minister of Russia’s full support for the success of India’s Presidency of BRICS during 2021,” it said, referring to another upcoming summit which both leaders will attend which would include the leaders of Brazil, China and South Africa as well.