India steps up medical diplomacy, flies plane loads of medicines to friends

India steps up medical diplomacy, flies plane loads of medicines to friends

India has begun sending consignments of life-saving drugs as gifts to neighboring countries to help them fight the coronavirus pandemic, South Block officials said on Thursday.

Officials said the government was sending drugs to Bhutan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal, Myanmar, Seychelles, Mauritius and some African countries. One of the early consignments, an Air India plane with 10 tonnes of medicine, was sent to Sri Lanka on Tuesday.

While neighboring countries are being gifted consignments of paracetamol and hydroxychloroquine, the government has also cleared export of Covid-19 drugs to countries such as US, Spain, Brazil, Bahrain, Germany and the UK in line with the commercial contracts signed with Indian pharmaceutical companies.

“Instructions to this effect have been issued by the commerce ministry, “said a senior official. It was pointed that the exports from special economic zones were allowed after steps were taken to secure supplies that India might need if the worst-case Covid-19 scenario plays out.

It was after this assessment that India eased restrictions on export of hydroxychloroquine to the US and other countries that prompted US President Donald Trump to tweet his ‘ thank you’ note to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the people of India.

India is also keeping a special watch on drug requirements of Gulf countries. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is in touch with his counterparts in the Gulf.

“Besides, India is constantly in touch with the Indo-Pacific countries and those countries like US, France, UK, Spain and Italy who have been hit by the pandemic very severely,” said the official.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla will also speak to his Russian counterpart today to discuss the overall pandemic situation as well as offer to supply any life saving drugs to the strategic partner.