Coronavirus sends India PM Modi from 'Vocal for Local' to relying on global aid

Last year, Mr Narendra Modi made "Vocal for Local" the mantra for India to beat the pandemic. PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) - Less than a year after taking a sharp protectionist turn, the government of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi is relying on overseas help to fight the world's worst Covid-19 crisis.

Nations including the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany have pledged aid after a second wave of the pandemic overwhelmed India's healthcare system.

Even China, with whom New Delhi is entangled in a border standoff, has offered assistance.

The first flights from the US are scheduled to arrive Thursday (April 29), bringing supplies including oxygen, components to make more than 20 million doses of vaccines, as well as courses of the antiviral drug remdesivir and rapid diagnostic tests.

That follows criticism that hoarding by richer nations of vaccines and the raw materials to make them has prolonged the pandemic, contributing to fresh outbreaks in developing economies.

Despite being home to the world's largest vaccine industry, India's inoculation drive has suffered in recent weeks amid a shortage of key ingredients. As well, efforts to set up oxygen plants since October last year haven't materialised because some vendors walked away while others still lack land or electricity connections.

Last year, Mr Modi made "Vocal for Local" the mantra for India to beat the pandemic, aiming to boost domestic manufacturing of everything from personal protective equipment to ventilators.

That followed the government's move in recent years to raise import tariffs to curb cheap goods from abroad and support small- and medium-sized local manufacturers.

"The corona crisis has taught us the value of local manufacturing, local markets and local supply chains," Mr Modi had said in May. "Local is not only our need, it is also our responsibility."

Mr Modi's drive to support domestic manufacturing dovetailed with a global push in recent years toward reshoring industries and shortening supply chains amid trade disruptions from the pandemic, as well as the US-China trade war waged by former President Donald Trump.

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