COVID-19 diplomacy: Why sharing hydroxychloroquine is essential for India
New Delhi, Apr 07: With hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) being touted as a game changer in the battle against COVID-19, and India being one of the top producers of that generic drug, there was no choice for New Delhi, to keep the age-old anti-malarial drug for domestic use alone.
So, India decided to export anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to several countries including those in the neighbourhood on a case-by-case basis in sync with its commitment to the international community to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Hydroxychloroquine is an old and inexpensive drug used to treat malaria. Last month, India banned export of hydroxychloroquine in the midst of views that the drug could be used as potential anti-viral agent to protect healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients from the infection.
"India has always maintained that the international community must display strong solidarity and cooperation. This approach also guided our evacuation of nationals of other countries," Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava said.
"In view of the humanitarian aspects of the pandemic, it has been decided that India would licence paracetamol and HCQ (hydroxychloroquine) in appropriate quantities to all our neighbouring countries who are dependent on our capabilities," he said while responding to media queries on the issue.
India has received requests from several other countries including its immediate neighbours Sri Lanka and Nepal for supply of hydroxychloroquine.
Now, it is clear that the US will be one of the beneficiaries of the decision, as it is also one of the most badly affected country by COVID-19 in the world.
Also, Donald Trump is known for taking arbitrary steps in retaliation. Bowing down to Trump's pressure, India had last year quietly cut its imports of crude oil from Iran to zero. Just within a month of his successful visit to India, the Centre in no mood to hurt bilateral friendship with US.
India is still hoping that the US will allow it to import the Russian S-400 anti-missile defence system. India and the US still have to iron out a lot of contentious trade issues, and any retaliation by Trump over a major Indian export, when things fall to normalcy, is not something India looks forward to.
It is also to be noted that PM Modi, who spearheaded a virtual COVID-19 summit with the SAARC nations on March 15, could not have denied resources to needy partners.
Since the outbreak, PM Modi has been vocal on the issue that the international community needs to come together to fight the pandemic. Also, if the situation continues the same for some time, there will be a lot of give and take among nations, not just during the pandemic, but also after, as economies stabilise.
Not to forget, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has offered a $2.9 million support to India for COVID-19.