Biden administration deploys key diplomat to India amid coronavirus crisis

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The State Department announced Friday it is sending a top career diplomat to India as the country grapples with a crippling wave of coronavirus cases.

The department said in a statement it is sending Daniel Smith, a former acting secretary of State and acting deputy secretary of State, to temporarily serve as the chargé d’affaires at the U.S Embassy in New Delhi.

Smith currently serves as the director of the Foreign Service Institute and holds the rank of career ambassador, the highest Foreign Service rank.

“Ambassador Smith’s appointment underscores the United States’ strong commitment to our partnership with the Government of India and the Indian people. He will spearhead close cooperation with India to ensure that our countries continue to advance our shared priorities, including overcoming the global pandemic,” the State Department said.

“The United States stands in solidarity with India, and Ambassador Smith is committed to working together with India in partnership.”

Smith’s deployment to serve as chargé d’affaires, a position that has been held by Donald Heflin, comes as India grapples with one of the world’s worst surges in coronavirus cases and deaths since the start of the pandemic early last year.

New cases in the country have spiked to more than 380,000 in a single day, according to figures from Our World in Data. The spike in cases and deaths has stretched the limits of India’s health system, with hospitals reportedly facing dire shortages of critical tools like ventilators, oxygen and vaccine materials.

The U.S. commenced aid flights to India on Thursday to deliver more than $100 million worth of assistance, including oxygen cylinders, concentrators that obtain oxygen out of the air, 15 million N95 masks and 1 million rapid tests along with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The U.S. is also sending supplies to help with the manufacturing of more than 20 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

In light of the crisis in India, the U.S. on Thursday urged all Americans to leave the country and announced Friday it will ban most travel from India starting Tuesday.


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