India will supply paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine in "appropriate quantities" to all neighbouring countries and nations who badly need the medicines in wake of coronavirus crisis. The Ministry of External Affairs' announcement on Tuesday came after United States President Donald Trump threatened "retaliation" if India refused to supply these essential medicines.
Saying the matter should not be politicised, the MEA has said the reason behind curbing its supply was to first ensure India had adequate supply. "We will also be supplying these essential drugs to some nations who have been particularly badly affected by the pandemic. We would therefore discourage any speculation in this regard or any attempts to politicise the matter," Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said. He added India had always maintained the international community must display strong solidarity and cooperation in view of the pandemic.
Explaining the rationale behind banning these drugs in the first place, Srivastava said like any responsible government, India's first obligation was to ensure there were adequate stocks of medicines for the requirement of its own people.
Hydroxychloroquine tablet is used to prevent and treat malaria, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, among other ailments, while paracetamol is used to treat pain and fever.
Countries like the United States have been seeking India's help to allow the sale of hydroxychloroquine tablets to treat the growing number of coronavirus patients. During a White House briefing on Monday, Trump said he would be surprised if India refused to supply these medicines. Threatening India of retaliation, Trump said he spoke to PM Modi on Sunday morning. "If he (Modi) doesn't allow it to come out, that would be okay, but of course there may be retaliation. Why wouldn't there be?" he added.
India, the world's main supplier of generic drugs, had restricted the export of 26 pharmaceutical ingredients and medicines, including paracetamol, a common pain reliever also sold as acetaminophen, in March.
Under pressure from the US and various other countries, India withdrew ban imposed on export of 12 bulk drugs -- raw materials for finished drugs -- and essential medicines like antibiotics and vitamins, on April 6.