The diaspora “living bridge” was expectedly at the heart of the much-anticipated Virtual Summit between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 4.
The two leaders were forced to take their talks online after was cancelled last month amid the severe Covid-19 pandemic second wave in the country. They, understandably, kept their focus on the UK-India cooperation during the pandemic but also finalised a new Enhanced Trade Partnership worth around £1 billion in trade and investments.
It came as the UK confirmed a further 1,000 ventilators to be sent to India to address its supply needs during the pandemic, in addition to 200 ventilators, 495 oxygen concentrators and three oxygen generation units the UK announced as part of the assistance package estimated at around £6 million.
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Boris Johnson said: “The terrible images we have seen in India in recent weeks are all the more powerful because of the close and enduring connection between the people of the UK and India.
“I am deeply moved by the surge of support the British people have provided to the people of India and am pleased the UK government has been able to play our part in providing .
“The UK will always be there for India in its time of need.”
Besides the offer of much-needed equipment, the UK government said that England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance have spoken to their Indian counterparts to provide advice, insight and expertise to the Indian healthcare system as it deals with one of the world’s worse surges in Covid levels.
The two sides have also agreed that the National Health Service (NHS) is to establish a clinical advisory group led by NHS England Chief People Officer Prerana Isaar to support India’s Covid response. The new NHS advisory group effort will work with Indian institutions such as the All India Institute of Medical Services (AIIMS) to share experience on managing Covid outbreaks.
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Downing Street pointed to a powerful demonstration of what Prime Minister Modi has called the “” between our countries, which saw British people come to the support of India in huge numbers. Businesses, civil society and the wider public have responded to appeals for help and launched funding drives.
This includes the British Asian Trust’s “” emergency appeal, which is raising funds for oxygen concentrators to be rapidly deployed to Indian hospitals. The appeal, which had been personally backed by the trust’s founder Prince Charles, has raised around £1.6 million.
Virgin Atlantic also flew 200 boxes of oxygen concentrators to Delhi over the weekend, after partnering with Khalsa Aid. Further cargo space is being given free of charge on six flights to India this week in association with the Red Cross.
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab added: “This support will help urgently meet some of India’s acute needs, particularly oxygen for patients. We are determined to help our Indian friends in their hour of need.
“We need to all work together to defeat Covid-19. No one is safe until we are all safe.”