Given the enduring and institutionalised nature of the bilateral dynamics between the US and India, the outcome of the US presidential elections is unlikely to impact the ongoing momentum on health cooperation between the two countries.
In-fact it will further strengthen it. Regardless of who occupies the White House, both India and the US take the subject of public health very seriously. As such, both countries will continue to extend cooperation on all health matters, including the partnership on vaccine research and development for COVID-19 currently underway.
The genesis of this logic lies in the fact that the relationship between India and the US is intrinsically synergistic. It ties in strongly with the compelling need for democratic and improved healthcare, greater access, affordability and the early availability of advancements in modern diagnostics, medicine and treatment for both populations.
India's contribution as a longstanding, stable and significant provider of wide-ranging high quality generic medicines to the US has helped it to lower its runaway healthcare expenditure.
This reliance has been tested from time to time, with India redeeming itself once again during the present COVID-19 crisis by maintaining a steady and uninterrupted supply of scarce medicines to the US, helping it to contain the pandemic. Generic medicines now form a growing part of the US healthcare mainstay.
Equally, India needs access to the latest advancements in medical technologies, devices, new medicines and R&D capabilities at the cutting edge of medical science to up its game. The US has excelled in these areas and can expand its presence in India by bringing in these capabilities. India, with its huge population, presents an opportunity for American companies that cannot be ignored.
Having in the past reached a position of overdependence on China, both the US and India are eager to mitigate their manufacturing risks by diversifying their supply chains. Much of the medical equipment and medical devices are presently being manufactured by US companies in China. At the same time India's pharmaceutical industry depends on China for raw material, intermediates and API.
With realignments and likely adjustments emerging as compelling imperatives, India has become an excellent choice for relocation of manufacturing capability and its expansion. Given its technical maturity, skilled manpower, affordable labour and captive market, US manufacturers would benefit by using India as a substantial base not only to serve India's huge market but also for exports.
India's recent drive to manufacture APIs indigenously will further help the US health sector in terms of reliable and stable supplies. From the Indian standpoint, a partnership with the US on health R&D for diseases such as cancer, AIDS, and other emerging ailments is critical.
The Indo-US Science and Technology Forum is yet another example of the depth of relations between the two countries. Therefore, the lasting nature of the mutuality of health interests apart from the commonality of views on broader health issues will ensure that whatever the outcome of the elections, co-operation and collaboration on health matters will continue to grow.
(The author is President Council for Healthcare and Pharma)
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