PM Modi succumbs to Trump’s threat on potential COVID-19 drug

The threat of retaliation by Trump has not been well received by the people. There is a lingering scepticism that Modi has conceded to his threat by agreeing to send the drug to the USA.

US President Trump and PM Modi
US President Trump and PM Modi
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Arun Srivastava/IPA

The populist right building their electoral strength on boisterousness and arrogant self-confidence has been a known matter. It has been an open secret and there is no new element involved in it. The rightist rulers of the capitalist countries Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Jair Bolsonaro and others have been using this mechanism to cling to a narrative of normality only to hold on to the power. For them the gravity of a crisis does not matter much unless this harms them personally and directly.

Till the Coronavirus made a firm grip and claimed nearly 70,000 lives across the developed and capitalist world they were least bothered to perceive the threat from the dreaded disease. After it raised its monstrous head, all the leaders have started searching for the remedial measure with high intensity of alacrity.

Boris Johnson, now in ICU of a London hospital after infected with Corona, followed the “herd immunity” strategy even while scientific evidence made apparent its horrific human cost, his friend Donald Trump was not at all concerned of the invasion by the dreaded virus. Incidentally the same Donald Trump after downplaying the significance of the virus for weeks has been forced to declare a national emergency. Now being forced by the intensifying onslaught of the Corona he has threatened India of ‘retaliation’ if it turns down anti-malarial drug request.

Donald must realise that coronavirus has exposed the vulnerability of the USA and its administration. No doubt people will still describe it as the super power but the façade of it being the master of the world order has got exposed. Donald may claim that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is his personal friend, but none has given him the right to undermine the sovereignty of the country. By speaking of “retaliation” if India turned down his request to lift the hold on US orders of an anti-malarial drug, which he has touted as a “game-changer” in the fight against the coronavirus despite its untested efficacy, he has crossed the limits of the political decency.

His friendship with Modi does not grant him the right to use such language. He should have differentiated between the friend and sovereignty. What was indeed shocking was Trump went on to add to the threat his long-running grievances with India on trade issues. During his February visit to India he had mentioned this.

The fact of the matter is Modi has been too generous in fighting the dreaded disease. He had already on his own offered help to the SAARC countries. No doubt, the US had placed orders in March. But that does not mean that India was under any obligation to supply the medicine ignoring the needs of its own people. Unfortunately in his arrogance Donald forgot this aspect. As Modi during his discussion with Donald did not express his inability, he should have patiently waited instead of flexing his muscles. His audacity and arrogance could also be judged from his observation at the White House briefing, wherein he said; “I said we’d appreciate you allowing our supply to come out, If he doesn’t allow it to come out. That would be okay but, of course, there may be retaliation. Why wouldn’t that be?”

He also said;“I don’t like that decision. I know that he stopped it for other countries I spoke to him yesterday. We had a very good talk, and we’ll see whether or not that’s his decision. I would be surprised if he would you know because India does very well with the United States.”

India is one of the largest manufacturers of hydroxychloroquine in the world and had banned its export, along with a bunch of other deeming them essential for its own domestic use to fight the pandemic.

Trump has spoken of hydroxychloroquine as a potential “game-changer” many times, but his experts attached to the task force are not too much inclined as the drug has no proven benefits for Covid-19 patients.

Narendra Modi and his followers pride on him being a decisive Prime Minister even if the decisions are arbitrary, not well thought-out and spell doom for the country’s people, but the threat of retaliation by Trump has not been well received by the people. There is a lingering scepticism that Modi has conceded to his threat by agreeing to send the drug to the USA.

With the pandemic in US reaching on its peak, the Trump administration strives for a quick fix solution to the crisis like hydroxychloroquine. India has lifted export ban on hydroxychloroquine after Trump threatens ‘retaliation’. The White House has been championing hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for Covid-19, even though it hasn't been proven effective against the disease. The drug is officially approved in the US for treating malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus and experts warn it can cause heart rhythm problems.

India's external affairs ministry announced Tuesday that the country will license hydroxychloroquine "in appropriate quantities to all our neighbouring countries who are dependent on our capabilities," plus some nations "particularly badly affected" by the coronavirus pandemic. The announcement represents a U-turn by Modi's government, given that it only placed an export ban on the drug and its formulations on Saturday "without any exceptions." Little doubt Modi will be forced to explain why his government so quickly gave in to U.S. demands.

In February Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had warned the country and the government about the impending disaster to be wreaked by the spread of COVID-19 in India but at that time Modi turned a deaf ear to his suggestion. Instead of listening to his suggestion, Modi asked people to bang pots and pans which attained the character of Corona Carnival on the streets in the country, an event of mass gathering; much against the basic of physical distancing.

While Trump has been pressurising India for sending the medicine, the fact remains that the hospitals in America are not fully equipped. Reports suggest that even Trump got angry about a federal survey that found hospitals faced severe shortages of coronavirus test supplies. This report has given rise to question whether its conclusions were skewed by politics. The Health and Human Services (HHS) inspector general's office reported on Monday morning shortage of tests and long waits for results were at the root of mounting problems faced by hospitals. Meanwhile, Dr Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert, broke with Trump to warn that the world may never “go back to normal” after the coronavirus outbreak because the threat will linger, issuing the caution as America approaches 368,000 cases and 11,000 deaths.

The views expressed in the article are the author’s own

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