NEW DELHI: Saudi Arabia on Sunday shipped 60 tons of oxygen to India, a month after it sent 80 tons to help the South Asian nation deal with a deadly second wave of coronavirus.
The outbreak has claimed the lives of more than 300,000 people so far, primarily due to an oxygen shortage and a lack of hospital beds.
On Sunday, India registered more than 165,000 new COVID-19 cases and nearly 3,500 deaths.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to India, Dr. Saud Mohammed Al-Sati, called the oxygen shipment an expression of “solidarity with a close friend.”
“The shipment of liquid oxygen will depart from Dammam on Sunday and is expected to arrive in Mumbai on June 6,” he told Arab News. “Many other such shipments will be sent in the coming days and weeks. The Kingdom stands in solidarity with our close friend India in this difficult time. The recently announced shipment of 3 ISO tanks filled with 60 tons of liquid oxygen comes as a good gesture toward our friends in India to support their efforts to respond to the challenges posed by the pandemic of COVID-19.
“Health cooperation is one of the most important aspects of our strategic partnership and will continue as an important area of focus. Since the early days of the pandemic, our health cooperation has been growing.
“Thousands of Indian medical practitioners work in Saudi Arabia’s hospitals and medical institutions. Throughout the phases of the pandemic, we have maintained uninterrupted supply chains of goods, pharmaceutical, and medically related products.”
The Sunday figures are a sharp drop from the numbers reported in April and earlier this month, when the daily infection tally stood at 400,000 and more than 4,000 people were dying every day.
According to official data, India has registered 318,000 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
But media reports and independent observers claim the real figure is several times higher, with the second wave claiming lives in major cities and also in rural areas.
“Deeply appreciate the gesture of HRH Prince Abdulaziz, Minister of Energy, KSA for the offer to send 3 ISO Containers with 60 tons of LMO (Liquid Medical Oxygen), which are expected to arrive in Mumbai on 6 June 2021,” Indian Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan tweeted on Saturday.
Pradhan said that 100 more oxygen containers were expected to arrive in the next few months.
“The gesture of Saudi Arabia is reflective of the close friendship and warmth between the leadership of Saudi Arabia and Hon’ble PM (Modi),” he added.
India contacted OPEC when it was in desperate need of oxygen and held talks with countries including Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Kuwait to source the life-saving item.
Earlier this month, Pradhan held talks with Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman, the UAE Minister of Industry Sultan Al-Jaber, and Qatar’s Energy Minister Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi for oxygen supplies.
“The three containers and additional containers that will come in the weeks ahead will remain with the Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) for 6 months as a goodwill gesture from the Saudi Government, and IOCL will source LMO from Linde Dammam on commercial terms for import into the country,” Pradhan said.
Bilateral ties were strengthened during Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to New Delhi in Feb. 2019.
The two countries signed investment deals worth $100 billion across the energy, petrochemical, infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing sectors, and a proposed Strategic Partnership Council came to fruition in Oct. 2019.
As the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, the Serum Institute of India has so far supplied Saudi Arabia with 3 million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
The COVID-19 crisis has brought a new depth to the relationship between the two countries, according to former Indian ambassador Zikrur Rahman.
“Saudi Arabia and India not only share a strategic partnership in oil and investment, the partnership spreads in many fields,” Rahman told Arab News. “The crisis is the test of the relationship, and it shows how far it has deepened. Within this framework, the Saudis have come forward when India needs the necessary items like oxygen. Saudi has demonstrated its real concerns for India.”
India thanks Saudi Arabia for liquid medical oxygen consignmentIndia posts lowest daily rise in COVID-19 cases in 45-days