Chennai, June 4(BPNS)
Dr. Vijay Prabhakar, a product of Madras Medical College and a Public Health Expert in Chicago, United States, and Global Ambassador of the Rainbow push foundation has said that it was the relentless effort of Rev Father Jesse Jackson(Sr) that paved the way for United States Vice President Kamala Harris calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi and announcing of allocating vaccines to India.
Dr Prabhakar said that it was the Zoom meeting conducted by Tamil Nadu finance minister PTR Thiagarajan with Rev Father Jesse Jackson (Sr) and the call from Maharashtra minister for higher education, Uday Samant requesting him to intervene on behalf of India for vaccine allocation. The fact that both Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra states in India are governed by non-BJP political parties also helped to convince President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Dr. Vijay Prabhakar was the first coloured person to receive the US Public Health Service’s HIS Director’s Award of Excellence in 1992 during President Bill Clinton’s administration for his pioneering work as Health Commissioner for the Native American Tribe, Wisconsin Winnebago Nation from 1986-1992. He is also the Chairman of American Association for Multi-Ethnic Physicians and Founder Chair of US Congressman Danny Davis” Multi-Ethnic Advisory Task Force, Chicago”
Dr. Prabhakar was speaking exclusively to BPNS.
You have said that the historic meeting between President Jose Biden of the United States of America and US civil rights activist Rev Father Jesse Jackson has led to the US government allocating vaccines to India, Please elaborate
Yes. It was a historic meeting Rev Father Jesse Jackson( Sr) had with the President Jose Biden at Tulsa, Oklahoma on June 1, 2021, helped my motherland, India get the vaccine. Rev Father has been relentlessly pursuing with the US administration and to the world at large to aid India at this unprecedented crisis.
President Biden made a c commitment to connect White House staff with Reverend Jackson to ensure efficiency in communication and distribution of the US donated vaccines to India. I myself have briefed the President about how Congressmen Danny Davis has initially on May 2 kick-started the coming together of Indian American and mainstream community leaders that triggered the Rev Jackson (Sr) initiative to highlight the urgent need to help India combat the second wave of Covid -19 pandemic by hosting press meets in Chicago, Washington DC, and Atlanta.
This meeting has led to the announcement by Vice President Kamala Harris and her phone call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. President Biden listened carefully and responded most expressively to all our requests and we see this as a hugely positive step in India –US relations. We have a responsive President in Joe Biden is ready to rise to the occasion and acts swiftly to immediately resolve the situation with admirable leadership.
Several Observers and Critics were of the opinion that President Jose Biden is not having a good perspective on India . How come you were able to convince him of the Indian requirement of the vaccine?
It was a very challenging experience as we have had to use all our own resources and personal connections developed over the years to come up with a result-oriented strategy. The 2020 presidential elections and the Indian diaspora having their own choices along with certain sections of the community trying to continuously paint a negative image of India has made our task very difficult but it did not deter our sustained efforts to come to India’s aid.
There was stiff competition from other countries also making out their cause for the US donated vaccines. It is to the credit of the US Congressman Danny Davis who inspired me to lead the crusade for getting vaccines to India at any odds and it was the inspiring leadership of Reverend Jackson who constantly engaged in dialogue with President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris’s office from May 7 to June 1 resulted in the US allowing vaccines to India.
The other factor that convinced President Biden’s administration was that Rev Jackson’s appeal had the support of the non-BJP ruled administrations of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu to rush vaccines to India.
The meeting we had with the Indian Ambassador in the US, Taranjit Sandhu along with India’s Deputy Chief of mission Sudhakar Dalela on May 21 at Washington DC and the constant encouragement and feedback from India’s Consul General in Chicago , Amit Kumar played a vital role in this. At the end of the day, it is the community activated diplomacy that succeeded against all odds and criticisms.
It is learned that you had mentioned to President Biden to allocate a portion of the vaccine to be donated to India to states of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, Your comments?
After News reports came out about Rev Jesse Jackson (Sr) had officially thanked US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris for their open statement that the US would allocate 80 million vaccines overseas in his press conference, Maharashtra Minister for higher education Uday Samant called up Rev Jackson to thank him for his efforts to have the Biden , Harris administration commitment to donate 80 million vaccines overseas. Minister Uday then requested Rev Jackson to press for an immediate release to India with an allocation for Maharashtra.
This was followed by a zoom meeting initiated by the Tamil Nadu finance minister DrPTR Thiagarajan with Rev Jackson on the instructions of TN Chief minister, MK Stalin. He made a detailed presentation to Rev Jackson on the Covid crisis in India and emphasizing the need for America’s urgent assistance to India and also spoke about TN Government’s shortfall of vaccines.
Tamil Nadu finance minister Dr. PTR Thiagarajan has gone on record that he has reached out to the US government for vaccines to India and allocation to TN through the good offices of Rev Father Jackson and You. Please comment on this?
As I said earlier, TN Finance minister Dr. PTR Thiagarajan was one of the three leaders from India to have the foresight to reach out to Rev Jackson along with Maharashtra Minister Uday Samant is also a former Union minister and Member of Parliament from India, KJ Alphons.
PTR Thiagarajan has had his higher education in prestigious institutions in the US and was following the US media closely and seized upon the opportunity to present India’s case very eloquently. He also drew a parallel to the Civil Rights movement in the US to the Dravidian Movement in South India. Rev Jackson was emotionally moved by Dr. PTR’s presentation and he immediately sent a video message to people of India,” Help is on its way, Let not your spirit be broken, Hold on, Dawn of the morning is coming. We will conquer this disease. Keep hope alive . God bless you all. Love you all”.
Taking forward this success, will you be playing a significant role in India –US relationship?
I will do whatever I can for my motherland to further Indo- US relations. I take it as a bounden duty to ensure that India’s name is not tarnished by any section of the community by their false propaganda funneled by vested interests.
You will be interested to note that the same team led by me along with Mrs. Santhosh Kumar, Executive Director, Metropolitan Asian Family Services, Chicago, Dr. Bharat Barai, Eminent Oncologist& Chair,USA –India friendship council, Munster, Indiana worked hard to defeat an India resolution introduced in the City Council of Chicago on March 24, 2021.
This same Anti- India resolution funded by the Council of American Islamic Relations –CAIR,USA has successfully passed anti-India resolutions in eight other cities in the USA including Seattle.
The June 1 meeting with President Biden has established a firm foundation for leveraging Indo- US relations in a fresh perspective. We have just begun and there is a lot of work to be done in reference to India’s Covid relief efforts.We are working towards getting different players from India to directly purchase vaccines, medications, and equipment from manufacturers here in the USA. I will personally work towards evolving a new narrative to engage Indo- US relations that will be inclusive and result-oriented.
Indian External affairs minister S Jayashankar was in the US last week for scouting vaccines, What is your view on his journey to the US for the vaccine?
It is really good that India’s External affairs minister Jaishankar visited the US and met key officials pleading India’s case. However, India must now realize that the Biden –Harris administration is very people-centric, result-oriented and minority driven.
India must explore informal channels and give legitimacy to community diplomacy with a formal approach to significantly strengthen Indo- US relations given the geopolitics in this new digital age.
The official diplomatic channels are doing an excellent job and working beyond to pursue their agenda, but this is not enough to bridge the gap and combat India’s critics.
The need of the hour is to have Indian –American community leaders to effectively engage the Biden – Harris administration with a fresh narrative of meaningful purpose driven partnerships with a focus on grass root level –people’s democracy.