Kerala Kaumudi Online
Monday, 18 January 2021 9.34 PM IST

Lifesaving drugs should be made available to Indians first: Rahul Gandhi


NEW DELHI: India must help all countries in their fight against the coronavirus but lifesaving medicines should be made available to Indians first, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on Tuesday after the government decided to partially lift a ban on the export of paracetamol and anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

The Congress said Indians have the first right on the country's resources as it criticised US President Donald Trump for warning India of a "retaliation" if it did not export hydroxychloroquine to the US.

"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," Gandhi said on Twitter.

Gandhi's reaction came after the Ministry of External Affairs said that India would 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, an old and inexpensive drug used to treat malaria, is being seen as a viable therapeutic solution to the coronavirus by some quarters.

In a telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday, President Trump sought supply of hydroxychloroquine to the US to treat coronavirus-infected people.

On Monday, Trump warned India that the US might retaliate if it did not export hydroxychloroquine despite his personal request.

Reacting to the development, the Congress, in a tweet, said, "A friendship with conditions, is no friendship at all. BJP government should reassess all that it's doing for foreign nations. PM Modi must prioritise the needs of our citizens first and foremost."

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said as part of the world community, while India will help all its friends but the first right on India's resources as also lifesaving medicines to fight the coronavirus remains of 130 crore Indians.

"Our friends can request us, but, no one can threaten India. The language used by our common friend United States of America, whose friendship, we cherish, both as a party and as a nation, is unwarranted and absolutely incorrect," he said.

Surjewala said the American President has made a request to the Indian Prime Minister and it is expected of the Indian Prime Minister to take any such decision by keeping "India first and Indians first" policy when it comes to export of essential and life saving medicines, including hydroxychloroquine and other medication.

"It is a call that Prime Minister will have to take and we sincerely hope that Prime Minister will appropriately register his protest and remarks and take any call on export of medication by keeping India and Indians first," he said.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot said, "While exporting medicines, the demands of states should be kept in mind."

He said a lot of exports of PPEs, medicines and ventilators have taken place in the past few days, but no clarification has come from the government in this regard.

"It is embarrassing for the entire country that Donald Trump threatens retaliation if Indian government did not allow supply of medicines. PM Narendra Modi who wasted one full month and Rs 100 crore for ''Namaste Trump'', has now meekly surrendered and has revoked the ban on exports of medicines," tweeted Congress spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil.

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 received requests from several other countries including its immediate neighbours Sri Lanka and Nepal for supply of hydroxychloroquine.

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