Life-saving medicines should be first made available to Indians before help is offered to other nations "in their hour of need", Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said this morning, hours after US President Donald Trump warned of "retaliation" over New Delhi's ban on export of a key anti-malaria drug - hydroxychloroquine - being tested for the cure of novel coronavirus or COVID-19.
"Friendship isn't about retaliation," the 49-year-old Congress leader tweeted. "India must help all nations in their hour of need but lifesaving medicines should be made available to Indians in ample quantities first," he further wrote.
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.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) April 7, 2020
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, including hydroxychloroquine, to ensure enough domestic stocks. The number of coronavirus cases in the country has soared to 4,421, including 112 deaths. An unprecedented surge has been witnessed over the past week.
On Monday, the US President at a press briefing, while replying to a question on New Delhi restricting export of medicines, said: "I spoke to him (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) on 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?"
Hours later, the government said that key drugs being tested as coronavirus cure will be supplied to "nations that have been badly affected" by the pandemic.
"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 United States - where over 330,000 have contracted infection, more than 10,000 have died, is the worst hit country in the world by the COVID-19 pandemic. Reeling under the economic fallout due to the pandemic, it recorded 6 million jobless claims last month.