“Temperature High” /Cartoon by: Mir Suhail Qadri

 Trump thanked India after it lifted the ban on shipping of generic drugs to the US after it threatened Modi of possible retaliation, the dent it caused in India’s pride is permanent.

Donald Trump thanked India for lifting exports of hydroxychloroquine—floated as a plausible COVID-19 treatment drug after Washington threatened Modi of possible retaliation if New Delhi failed to supply the anti-malarial medicine to the US.

India— a major exporter of generic medicines, in March, out of apprehensions of the coronavirus outbreak, had restricted the export of 26 drugs including original Paracetamol.

The unblocking of exports initiated after Trump spoke to Modi in a phone call on Sunday. The US president said, “If he doesn’t allow it to come out, …there may be retaliation. Why wouldn’t there be?”

Trump advised coronavirus-infected people to take Hydroxychloroquine in consultation with health professionals. The “game changer” as Trump called it, is also used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

According to Thomas Dörner, a rheumatologist at the Charité University Hospital in Berlin, Hydroxychloroquine has been used since the 1940s to treat autoimmune disorders but Douglas Richman, a virologist and infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Diego was skeptical of its use until it gets clinically tested.

He said, “Whether it works in vivo is not proven for any virus.” and fully supported further research to establish whether it is a good option for treating COVID-19. “It’s imperative that good RCTs are implemented to get answers one way or another,” he told The Lancet.

According to the Johns Hopkins University The US recorded 13000 deaths and more than 402,000 confirmed cases, the highest in the world. The Global cases have exceeded 1.4 million.

Though India said lifting the ban was a “gesture of solidarity”, social media users did not spare the chance to “retaliate” against Modi, who flaunted his friendship with Trump and had given him a grand welcome in India in February.

If India had stockpiled the drugs last month fearing the outbreak, why is it that it succumbed to US pressure now? It got lousy when ‘Modi is a Coward’s and ‘Ask Trump to Apologise’ started trending on Twitter. It posted videos of Narendra Modi wherein he had said in the past that India’s one hundred crore citizens have the strength to “pressurise the International powers”. Thousands of jokes and cartoons filled social media throughout the day.

India would supply “paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine to all its neighbouring countries” and to “nations badly affected by the coronavirus”. Though India’s foreign ministry said that the country had enough stock of medicines, its newly appointed spokesperson, Anurag Srivastava did not clarify on what could happen to medicines since there is no availability of raw material for drug productions and how would the country cope up with the increased demand within its national boundary in the times to come.

The two countries’ annual turnover amounting to no less than $80bn could come under question after the threat. Interestingly, since this outbreak started, doctors in India have been asking for PPEs but demands met zero. A few days back political activists demanded the same with the hashtag— doctors need gear. That also did not run through the ears of the government.

When it came to the threat of retaliation, Indian opposition leaders claimed, the PM succumbed to Trump’s pressure.

The leader of the Indian National Congress (INC) and its former president Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Friendship isn’t about retaliation….” Sitaram Yechury, Communist Party of India (Marxist) CPI(M) leader said that Trump’s statement was “unacceptable”… and the Modi government “succumbed to the threat.” .

Lawyer Prashant Bhushan tweeted, “within an hour of threatening, Modi reversed the ban. He took a jibe on the PM and reminded him of his 56” chest. Activist Saket Gokhale also reminded Modi that retaliation did not mean cancelling his Visa to the US. He was denied US Visa for his role in Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom of 2002. He later secured it.

It is not an exaggeration to say that had India lifted the ban prior to Trump’s threat to Mr Modi, it would not have reflected poorly on the country. Narendra Modi has played with pride of the country, both domestic and international. Can India regain its pride? It is for the time to decide.

Amir Malik is a JNU alumnus and an ACJ graduate. He can be reached at malikamiralig@gmail.com


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One Comment

  1. A typical example of the ruling mini- bully of India genuflecting to the ruling super-bully of the USA