President Donald Trump thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian people on Twitter after the latter agreed to ease restrictions on the export of anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine. However, the Indian decision appears to be a political compulsion as a result of the President’s earlier threatening statements. The American President had categorically said that if India did not lift the ban, there is likely to be ‘retaliation’, a loaded word used to convey some strong messages.
“Extraordinary times require even closer cooperation between friends. Thank you, India and the Indian people for the decision on HCQ. Will not be forgotten! Thank you Prime Minister @NarendraModi for your strong leadership in helping not just India, but humanity, in this fight!,” President Trump tweeted.
Earlier, speaking during a daily briefing at the White House, Trump said: “I don’t like that decision (to not export the drug). I didn’t hear that was his (Modi’s) decision.”
Trump on call with Modi on HCQ: pic.twitter.com/9OoNWfEV52
— Suhasini Haidar (@suhasinih) April 7, 2020
Scientists and the medical fraternity are racing against time to find a vaccine and a therapeutic solution to the infection that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in December.
Hydroxychloroquine has been identified by the US Food and Drug Administration as a possible treatment for the Coronavirus and it is being tested on more than 1,500 coronavirus patients in New York. However, some scientists say more testing is needed before it’s proven safe and effective against COVID-19.
Anticipating that it will work, given initial positive results, Trump has bought more than 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine for the potential treatment of coronavirus patients.
India manufactures 70 per cent of the world’s supply of hydroxychloroquine, according to Indian Pharmaceutical Alliance (IPA) secretary-general Sudarshan Jain.
The country has a production capacity of 40 tonnes of Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) every month, implying 20 crore tablets of 200 mg each. And since the drug is also used for auto-immune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, manufacturers have good production capacities that can also be ramped up.
“India had no other option”
Analysts believe that the Indian authorities had no option but to allow the export of the medicine due to several reasons. America has been hard hit by the pandemic, and the country’s leadership which appears to be relying on populist rhetoric to keep the public confidence unshaken might have gone to any extent if it (India) had not opened its door to provide the required drug.
Indian authorities have made all possible attempts to justify their decision, and to shatter any impression that might have undermined the idea of independent foreign policy. “It has been decided that India would license paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine in appropriate quantities to all our neighbouring countries who are dependent on our capabilities,” said Indian foreign ministry spokesman, Anurag Srivastava. “We will also be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic,” he said.
According to latest reports, US deaths due to coronavirus topped 14,600 on Wednesday, second highest reported number in the world after New York reported 799 deaths in a day. Moreover, US officials warned Americans to expect alarming numbers of coronavirus deaths this week, even as an influential university model on Wednesday scaled back its projected US pandemic death toll by 26% to 60,000.
On Tuesday, US deaths set a new daily record with over 1,900 new deaths reported in a single day, according to a Reuters tally.
Saleha Anwar, a Lahore-based political commentator and columnist, believes that PM Modi was under pressure after Trump threatened of ‘retaliation’. “The tweet was expected. Trump played very well. He first pushed India into a diplomatically awkward situation and then offered a graceful exist. The only purpose was to force Indian authorities to immediately lift the ban on the export of the medicine,” she told GVS.
However, Indian media, political commentators and politicians seemed to be happy, amid coronavirus outbreak, while celebrating flowery-language used by the American President for PM Modi.