There was a time when the US Navy’s vaunted Seventh Fleet rolled into the Bay of Bengal to intimidate the Indian armed forces’ action during the Bangladesh War in the eastern theatre of the 1971 Indo-Pak War.
The response from then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was to instruct the Indian Navy to confront the US fleet in the high seas so that it could not disrupt the rapid advance of the Indian Army deep into erstwhile East Pakistan.
Accordingly, the Indian fleet centred around INS Vikrant, an aircraft carrier with 20 light fighters, sailed to intercept the mighty Task Force 74, the flagship of which was the world’s first nuclear-powered flattop with 90 of the world’s most state-of-the-art fighter-bombers.
Thankfully, a military confrontation was averted by the Indian Army’s swift manoeuvre and the Pakistani forces’quick capitulation as also the sudden surfacing in the Bay of Bengal of Soviet atomic submarines. But the message from New Delhi to Washington was conveyed loud and clear that India would not be browbeaten by the US.
Cut to 2020, by when Narendra Modi was supposed to turn India into a superpower as reiterated by many BJP leaders and supporters time and again.
India, the world’s main supplier of generic drugs, has lifted restrictions on the export of 24 pharmaceutical ingredients and medicines made from them, the government said in a statement recently. It is a sharp reversal from India’s stance when it had imposed the restrictions last month as the Coronavirus outbreak, that has disrupted global supply chains, made its landfall in India.
Indian government sources have made it clear that the bans had prompted reaction from the United States and that New Delhi had been under intense pressure from Washington.
The decision also followed a telephone call on Saturday between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump during which Trump urged Modi to release supplies of the anti-malaria drug hydroxy- chloroquine, which is being tested as a possible treatment for patients afflicted with COVID-19.
Trump had said late last Monday in Washington that India could face retaliation for its decision to ban exports of hydroxychloroquine. This comes close on the heels of report of an Indian company exporting almost 90 tonnes of protective medical equipment to Serbia at a time when the Coronavirus curve has just started to climb in India and the country is woefully short in terms of personal protection equipment (PPE) suits, face masks, gloves and essential medicines.
This action of the Narendra Modi government signals the total surrender of not just India’s foreign policy at the altar of good relations with the US.
It shows for the first time in the history of independent India, we have a govern- ment which can prioritise other country’s requirements over the needs of our own citizens.
This is deplorable to say the least. The Indian government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is haphazard to say the least as the woeful- ly low allocation at Rs 1.7 lakh crore and our abysmally low testing rates show.
The government took over a month to place orders for PPE suits and other equipment in a country as densely populated as India. However, this latest action to allow exports of the drugs adds to the government’s repertoire of incompetence. Servitude is that latest addition.