India's Modi Set to Supply Hydroxychloroquine to U.S. After Trump Threatens 'Retaliation'

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appears to have bowed to President Donald Trump's demands that he lift a ban on the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which Trump has touted as a treatment option for COVID-19 coronavirus patients despite concern among medical experts.

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, according to the Hindustan Times.

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."

Trump spoke with Modi by phone on Sunday, urging him to lift the ban and allow exports to the U.S. The president has repeatedly suggested that hydroxychloroquine can be used as a treatment for coronavirus. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) provided the drug with an "emergency use authorization" to use on coronavirus patients in some circumstances, though experts have warned there is insufficient evidence to support its use to treat COVID-19.

Trump has tried to stop medical experts discussing the merits of the treatment, even blocking National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci from answering a question about the drug on Sunday. Fauci has repeatedly wanted that any evidence of its efficacy is anecdotal.

Trump applied more pressure on Modi on Monday, threatening consequences if the Indian premier failed to release hydroxychloroquine. "If he doesn't allow it to come out, that would be okay, but of course there may be retaliation. Why wouldn't there be?" Trump said at a White House press briefing.

If the U.S. does indeed receive hydroxychloroquine from India, Trump will no doubt spin the development as a win, despite concerns within the medical community about how useful the drug actually is.

In India, Modi will be forced to explain why his government so quickly gave in to U.S. demands. External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava urged against "any attempts to politicise the matter," but Modi will be facing serious questions.

Hours before the ban was lifted, Irfan Nooruddin, the director of the Atlantic Council's South Asia Center, told Newsweek that with the monsoon season approaching in India, allowing proven anti-malarial drugs to be exported could have "political blowback of a pretty huge proportion." This could be even more pronounced if the drugs are going to the world's richest nation, he said.

Still, Nooruddin suggested that Modi could turn the situation into a win-win and extract concessions from the U.S. further down the line, perhaps in the shape of support in its own coronavirus battle or to grease the wheels of the elusive proposed trade detail between the two countries.

Still, "Any perceived relaxation of the medical supply chain will be viewed as a weakness if Modi can't show something tangible in exchange," Nooruddin said. The quick about-turn "won't play well in any Indian newspaper," he predicted, even in a country where Modi has established tight control over the media.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advice on Using Face Coverings to Slow Spread of COVID-19

  • CDC recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
  • A simple cloth face covering can help slow the spread of the virus by those infected and by those who do not exhibit symptoms.
  • Cloth face coverings can be fashioned from household items. Guides are offered by the CDC. (
  • Cloth face coverings should be washed regularly. A washing machine will suffice.
  • Practice safe removal of face coverings by not touching eyes, nose, and mouth, and wash hands immediately after removing the covering.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
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Medical advice

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Mask and glove usage

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  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
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  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.
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This file photo shows a pack of hydroxychloroquine sulfate medication is held up on March 26, 2020 in London, U.K. John Phillips/Getty Images/Getty