With the second wave of the pandemic leaving afflicted Indians breathless, Singapore started with a three-sentence text message between external affairs minister S Jaishankar and foreign minister Vivian Balakrishnan on April 22.
Following the SMS, the two ministers spoke on the phone, with Jaishankar requesting medical oxygen and his Singaporean counterpart agreeing, with the Prime Ministers of both countries kept informed. The Indian foreign minister requested that his senior colleague, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, dispatch heavy transporters from the Indian Air Force to pick up the first four cryogenic tanks from Singapore which were needed to pick up liquid medical oxygen from east India to Covid-19 hit north and western parts of the country.
The same day in Paris, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh summoned Indian Air Force (IAF) Chief Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria, who was on a five-day official visit to France at the time. Putting all else aside, Air Chief Bhadauria worked through the night to schedule transport plane movement both externally and internally. The entire IAF transport fleet was placed on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week with multiple sets of pilots as ‘Mission Oxygen’ began in earnest with a C-17 picking up four cryogenic containers from Changi in Singapore and arriving at the transport hub of Panagarh in West Bengal.