New Delhi: India will supply key drugs being tested as coronavirus cure to Bangladesh, US and other countries hit by the deadly disease.
Newly appointed spokesperson for India’s External affairs Ministry Anurag Srivastava announced the country’s decision on Tuesday. Delhi has moved to export drugs hours after US President Donald Trump’s stunning comments about “retaliation” if Prime Minister Narendra Modi declined to ship the medicines.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.
“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,” said Srivastava.
Former Spokesperson of the ministry Raveesh Kumar was promoted as an ambassador to Geneva. New spokesperson took charge on Monday.
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 the 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, 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, 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 taking advantage of the United States on trade. So I would be surprised if that was 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.