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As India grappled with a devastating second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the country’s all-weather friend France led an extensive solidarity mission to give India an immediate relief and bolster its fighting capabilities. 

At the request of President Emmanuel Macron, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs stated on 26 April that its Crisis and Support Centre and the Embassy of France in India will coordinate a shipment of 28 tons of medical equipment worth more than INR 17 crores. The shipment, which arrived early on 2 May 2021, carried this equipment:

  • Eight medical oxygen generators manufactured by a French SME Novair. By producing medical oxygen from the ambient air, these oxygen generators can fill cylinders at the flow rate of 20,000 litres per hour. This oxygen output can meet the needs of 15 critically ill Covid-19 patients in an ICU (or 30 such patients in the ICU of a conventional hospital). They are also capable of providing oxygen therapy to 150 patients in a conventional hospital facility. These generators can continuously supply a 250-bed Indian hospital for a dozen years thereby ensuring long-term oxygen autonomy and enhanced resilience in face of increased demand for oxygen. They also allow hospitals to save up to INR 15 crore a year and eliminate safety hazards linked with liquid oxygen storage.
  • The oxygen plants will be delivered to eight Indian hospitals, six in Delhi, one in Haryana and one in Telangana, based on needs as identified by the Indian authorities.
  • Liquid medical oxygen containers of which five are being sent in the first instalment. They can supply medical oxygen to up to 10,000 patients for a day.
  • Twenty-eight ventilators and their consumables and 200 electric syringe pumps, among other specialised medical equipment. 

To transport this oxygen to India, French authorities airlifted four cryogenic containers to Qatar where they were filled with oxygen generated by French company Air Liquide at their joint venture plant with the host country. The containers were then transported to Mumbai by two Indian naval frigates INS Trikand and INS Tarkash and the Indian Air Force. In addition to this 80-tonne supply of medical oxygen received in the first shipment, a second shipment of 80-tonne oxygen to India is underway. In this second shipment expected by early June, France will also supply nine more oxygen generating plants each of which can support 250 hospital beds. 

Even as the pandemic has raged on, France and India have continued their collaborations in other focus sectors like defence and security, combatting climate change, building renewable energy capacity and an impending manned mission to space next year. More recently, Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs visited India between 13-15 April. Furthermore, France joined India and Australia in establishing a Trilateral Ministerial Dialogue on the side-lines of the recently concluded G7 Foreign Ministers’ meeting in London thereby further cementing the ties between the two countries. With its continued support to India, France has become a close and reliable partner for India and the two countries look forward to a flourishing relationship.

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