China on Friday said it was willing to talk to India about what it needs to fight the massive surge in coronavirus cases, a day after offering to help New Delhi with necessary support and help.
India reported 314,835 new coronavirus cases on Thursday (for the preceding 24 hours), the highest single-day tally recorded anywhere in the world since the pandemic started last year. India’s death toll from the disease rose 2,104 in the same time period.
The spike in Covid-19 cases has put medical infrastructure under severe strain with hospitals in parts of India running out of essential medical supplies including oxygen.
Responding to a query from Hindustan Times about what kind of assistance Beijing was ready to offer to New Delhi, the Chinese foreign ministry said it was ready to talk to India about what it needs.
“China is willing to communicate (on) specific matters with India according to its needs,” the ministry said in a one-line statement in Mandarin to HT.
It could not be ascertained if Beijing had officially conveyed to New Delhi its intention to extend help in fighting the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in India.
On Thursday, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin had said that Beijing was aware that the epidemic in India had become severe, and that there was a temporary shortage of necessary materials for epidemic prevention.
Wang was responding to a question from Chinese official media at the regular ministry briefing about what action China was taking in view of the spreading epidemic in India.
“China is willing to provide the necessary support and help,” Wang had said, without giving details of what such assistance might consist of.
“The novel coronavirus is a common enemy of all mankind, and the global community needs to unite as one to fight against epidemics,” he told the briefing.
Last year, India was among the countries to help Beijing with medical supplies during the time the Covid-19 outbreak was at its most severe in China.
India had provided 15 tonnes of medical supplies comprising masks, gloves, and emergency medical equipment at a cost of about ₹2.11 crore to China at the time.
In a written reply to a question in the Lok Sabha in March, 2020, external affairs minister of state V Muraleedharan had said the medical supplies included 100,000 surgical masks, 500,000 pairs of surgical gloves, 75 pieces of infusion pumps, 30 pieces of enteral feeding pumps, 21 pieces of defibrillator and 4,000 pieces of N-95 masks.
The supplies, flown to China in an India Air Force’s C-17 special flight, were handed over to the Hubei charity federation in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the first epicentre of the pandemic where the virus had emerged in early December, 2019.
In February, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had written to President Xi Jinping extending India’s assistance to fight the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking at a press conference soon after, Chinese ambassador to India Sun Weidong had appreciated the support and solidarity that India had extended to China in its fight against the novel coronavirus.
China had returned the favour in April, dispatching dozens of aircraft with Covid-19-related medical supplies when the first wave of the pandemic became severe in India.
India-bound flights had taken off from Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Xi’an and Hong Kong, carrying 390 tonnes of medical supplies, including RT-PCR test kits, Rapid Antibody test kits and personal protection equipment.
Soon after, however, ties between India and China had plunged to its worst in decades following military friction along the disputed border in eastern Ladakh. Nearly a year later, the two countries are still grappling to completely defuse the situation.