Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday criticised United States President Donald Trump for threatening India to release supplies of a drug seen as a possible treatment for Covid-19 , saying friendship is not about retaliation, and that life saving medicines should be made available to Indians first.
Gandhi’s statement came after the Ministry of External Affairs said India will licence paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine in “appropriate quantities” to neighbouring countries, and to nations badly affected by the coronavirus.
The Centre had earlier put a hold on exports of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as well as on the pain reliever, paracetamol, saying it had to meet its internal demand. But Trump spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking supplies and later hinted that India may face retaliation.
“Friendship isn’t about retaliation,” Gandhi tweeted. “India must help all nations in their hour of need but lifesaving medicines should be made available to Indians in ample quantities first.”
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor also poured scorn over Trump’s statement. “Never in my decades of experience in world affairs have I heard a Head of State or government openly threatening another like this,” Tharoor said. “What makes Indian hydroxychloroquine ‘our supply’, Mr President [Trump]? It only becomes your supply when India decides to sell it to you.”
Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra accused Trump of bullying India and urged the prime minister to stand up to the United States. “Fifty-six inches used to bully opposition at home Use it to stand up to those who bully India,” Moitra said. “We and we alone decide when and how much to sell – please make this clear [Narendra Modi] . We’re with you on this.”
The United States has emerged as the worst sufferer of the coronavirus pandemic, with over 3,67,000 cases, according to an estimate by Johns Hopkins University. The drug, hydroxychloroquine, is one of the experimental and unproven means used to fight the virus, and has been aggressively advocated by Trump as the possible cure to the Covid-19 infection. Besides the US, a number of other countries also have approached India for the drug. Nearly half of the American supply of the drug comes from India. The Indian government also allowed export of paracetamol and some other drugs.
Earlier, the Indian Council of Medical Research had authorised physicians to use the drug as a potential preventive measure for Covid-19 – only for asymptomatic healthcare workers involved in the treatment of suspected or confirmed patients of the disease, and household contacts looking after infected patients. The medical body, however, warned that the measure must not instill a “sense of false security” and urged all individuals to continue taking all preventive measures and practice social distancing to avoid getting infected.
The number of novel coronavirus cases in the country rose to 4,421 on Tuesday morning, and the toll increased to 114, according to health ministry figures.