US President Donald Trump during his visit to India in February, 2020
US President Donald Trump during his visit to India in February, 2020
AFP Photo

US President Donald Trump has said that he would be ‘surprised’ if India does not lift the ban of export of hydroxychloroquine to Washington, hinting of a possible retaliation.

Trump said he spoke to Prime Minister Modi on April 5 morning and made a request to release Hydroxychloroquine - an old and inexpensive drug used to treat malaria - for the US.

"They make large amounts of Hydroxychloroquine. India is giving it a serious consideration," Trump said at his daily news conference at the White House on Saturday.

India's Directorate General of Foreign Trade on April 4 banned the export of Hydroxychloroquine and its formulations with immediate effect and made it clear that there will be no exceptions.

Trump said he would appreciate if India releases the amount of Hydroxychloroquine that the US has ordered.

"And I said I would appreciate if they (India) would release the amounts that we ordered," he said, without mentioning that quantity of Hydroxychloroquine that has been ordered by US companies from India.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has recommended the anti-malarial drug for those involved in the care of suspected or confirmed cases of the coronavirus and also, for the asymptomatic household contacts of laboratory confirmed cases.

Scientists across the world are racing against time to find either a vaccine or a therapeutic cure to the virus that has so far killed more than 64,000 people and infected 1.2 million in more than 150 countries.

Based on some initial results, the Trump administration is banking heavily on using Hydroxychloroquine for the successful treatment of coronavirus.

Following a quick provisional approval from the US Food and Drug Administration last Saturday, the malaria drug along with a combination of some other drug is being used in the treatment of about 1,500 COVID-19 patients in New York, the epicentre in the US.

According to Trump, the drug is yielding positive results. If successful, he told reporters that it would be a gift from heaven.

In the next several weeks, health experts in the US have projected between 100,000 to 200,000 deaths due to the coronavirus, which due to human-to-human transmission is spreading like a wildfire in the country.

In anticipation of it being a successful drug in the treatment of coronavirus, the US has already stockpiled some 29 million doses of Hydroxychloroquine.

It is in this context Trump requested Modi to help US get millions of doses of Hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug that can be produced at mass scale in India.

Prime Minister Modi on Saturday said he held a detailed discussion on the coronavirus crisis with President Trump and resolved to deploy the full strength of the Indo-US partnership to fight the global pandemic.

"We had a good discussion and agreed to deploy the full strength of the India-US partnership to fight COVID-19," Modi wrote on Twitter on his "extensive" telephonic conversation with Trump.

The prime minister and the US president exchanged views on the pandemic and its impact on the global well-being and economy, a statement issued by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said.

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