Tuesday, 18 May, 2021

After Trump threat, India lifts ban on medicine export

Published on: 1:24 pm - Tuesday | April 7, 2020


Hours after US President Donald Trump’s stunning comments about “retaliation” if Prime Minister Narendra Modi declined to ship the medicines, India has decided to supply key drugs being tested as coronavirus cure to “nations that have been badly affected” by the pandemic.

India, which supplies more than a quarter of the world’s generic drugs, had last month restricted exports of 26 pharmaceutical ingredients and the medicines made from them to ensure enough domestic stocks amid rising COVID-19 cases, reports NDTV.

In view of the humanitarian aspects of the pandemic, it has been decided that India would licence paracetamol and Hydroxychloroquine in appropriate quantities to all our neighbouring countries who are dependent on our capabilities. We will also be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said.

The Foreign Ministry said given the enormity of the COVID-19 pandemic, India has always maintained that the international community “must display strong solidarity and cooperation”.

But exports of hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol will be allowed depending on availability of stock after meeting domestic requirements and existing orders.

The foreign ministry said the two would be in a licensed category and their demand position would be continuously monitored. “However, the stock position could allow our companies to meet the export commitments that they had contracted,” the spokesperson said.

On March 25, the government had restricted the export of hydroxychloroquine – a key anti-malaria drug being tested as a coronavirus cure — saying that it would be allowed only on “case-to case basis” on humanitarian grounds.

At a White House briefing hours ago, Donald Trump said “there may be retaliation” if India does not agree to export hydroxychloroquine, which he has described as a “game-changer” though it is yet to be established as an effective cure for COVID-19.

Asked whether he was worried about “retaliation to the US ban on export of medical goods” from India, Mr Trump said: “I would be surprised if he (PM Modi) would, you know, because India does very well with the United States. I don’t like that decision, I didn’t hear that that was his decision. I know that he stopped it for other countries.”

The US President, referring to his phone call with PM Modi, went on: “I spoke to him yesterday, we had a very good talk and we’ll see whether or not that’s his… For many years, they’ve been taken advantage of the United States on trade. So I would be surprised if that were his decision. He’d have to tell me that. I spoke to him Sunday morning, called him, and I said, we’d appreciate you allowing our supply to come out. If he doesn’t allow it to come out. That would be OK. But of course, there may be retaliation. Why wouldn’t there be?”

Opposition parties like the Congress said the government must prioritise domestic needs. “Friendship isn’t about retaliation. India must help all nations in their hour of need but lifesaving medicines should be made available to Indians in ample quantities first,” tweeted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi..

The foreign ministry spokesperson alleged “unnecessary controversy” on the COVID19-related drugs. “Like any responsible government, our first obligation is to ensure that there are adequate stocks of medicines for the requirement of our own people,” said Mr Srivastava, on restricting exports of drugs. The restrictions had been largely lifted after the availability of medicines for all possible contingencies have been confirmed, he said.

India has 4,421 coronavirus cases, including 114 deaths. Globally, the US has the highest number of cases. The coronavirus death count has crossed 10,000-mark in America; over 366,000 have contracted infection so far.