Washington, DC/New Delhi – Within the last 48 years, a storm in a teacup, which serves US-India cooperation Chai (tea) got stirred as US President Donald Trump cautioned India of “retaliation” if the anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) is not supplied to the US.
Rahul Gandhi, Member of Indian Parliament and leader of the opposition party, Indian National Congress reacted in strong words in a tweet: “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.”
In another similar tweet in vernacular (Hindi), he attached a picture with a message from the youth wing of Congress Party.
Yashvardhan Singh, a political activist from India wrote on his Facebook page: “हर देश को जरूरी दवाइयां, समुचित मात्रा में पहले अपने देश के नागरिको के लिए रखने का अधिकार है । लोकतंत्र में इस तरह की धमकी उचित नही है ।” (Every country has a right to keep essential medicines in ample quantities for their own citizens. In a democratic setup, this kind of threat is not correct)
Shipra Mathur, Consulting Editor, IAT reached out to a cross section of the people to gauge the mood which she stated: “India enraged over Trump statement.” Mathur reported from India as having received a lot of messages, emails and other communications expressing anger at the statement of threat by US President Trump but also noting that togetherness is important in facing and overcoming this challenging pandemic.
One young student, Harshita, wrote to Mathur: “This is a peak time to show unity about sharing information and making people aware while urging them to follow the instructions given by our government and support our police and doctors so that they can do their work without facing any problem,” said Harshita.
On the positive use of social media to spread awareness, Harshita stressed the role of the youth. “Today’s young generation is using the digital platform very well in alerting people about COVID-19 and teaching others to follow rules and cooperate with the government.”
According to both the governments, Trump had called Indian Prime Minister a day earlier and asked to supply the ordered quantities. But then during a daily briefing on COVID-19 at the White House, when asked a question with the information that India had stopped export of these drugs, the President reacted, threatening India with “retaliation,” if the drugs are not supplied.
Trying to calm the frayed nerves in a diplomatic manner, Anurag Srivastava, the new official spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Relations in New Delhi criticized the media, “We have seen some attempts by sections of the media to create unnecessary controversy over the issue of COVID19 related drugs and pharmaceuticals.”
But neither mentioning the earlier phone conversation between Modi and Trump, nor the “retaliation” threat by Trump, Srivastava explained the decision to lift export restrictions for some countries, again avoiding the mention of the US or others by name.
“In view of the humanitarian aspects of the pandemic, it has been decided that India would license paracetamol and HCQ in appropriate quantities to all our neighboring 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,” Srivastava said.
“With regard to paracetamol and Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ), they will be kept 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,” is the part of the statement that opened the door for the exports to the US.
Srivastava reiterated his request to the media discouraging “any speculation in this regard or any attempts to politicize the matter.”
Within hours came the news that three companies from the Western Indian state of Gujarat will be exporting the anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) to the US. The news was broken by the incumbent Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in an interview to a private radio station.
“Gujarat is shining the world over. US President Trump has been vigorously demanding that drug from India. Now, when the Centre has given permission for its export, Gujarat is all set to send it to the United States,” Rupani was quoted as saying in the Indian media, adding, “Three Gujarat-based companies have already started production of that drug to be supplied to the US.”
Interesting to note, the current Indian Prime Minister Modi, was the Chief Minister of Gujarat for more than a decade. During his recent short visit to India with extended family, Trump and his family were received and honored in Gujarat.