Lifting a blanket export ban, India has shipped a huge consignment of coronavirus treatment drugs to Israel. New Delhi delivered a five-tonne cargo of medicines including chloroquine, the antiviral drug currently being used in the treatment of Wuhan coronavirus.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, for the move. “Thank you, my dear friend, Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India, for sending hydroxychloroquine to Israel. All the citizens of Israel thank you!” the Israeli leader tweeted on Friday.

New Delhi had previously banned the export of hydroxychloroquine and other coronavirus-related medicines. India is reportedly the biggest manufacturer of the drug typically used in the treatment of malaria patients.

The Times of Israel news website reported New Delhi’s decision:

A plane from India carrying materials used to make medicines for treating coronavirus patients has arrived in Israel.

The five ton shipment, which the Ynet news site said arrived Tuesday, includes ingredients for the drugs hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, which are used to treat malaria.

Several countries have been experimenting with hydroxychloroquine to treat coronavirus symptoms and US President Donald Trump has touted its potential. Experts, however, have urged caution until bigger trials validate hydroxychloroquine’s effectiveness, as it and chloroquine can have potentially serious side effects, especially in high doses or administered with other medications.

India has limited exports of medicines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but on Tuesday partially eased a recent ban on exporting hydroxychloroquine after Trump pressured Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

India has limited exports of medicines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but on Tuesday partially eased a recent ban on exporting hydroxychloroquine after Trump pressured Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Last month, New Delhi eased a similar ban on medial exports by shipping N95-type face masks and other medical supplies to Israel following a phone call between the Prime Ministers Netanyahu and Modi.

India has also exempted the United States from the export ban on coronavirus-related drugs. President Donald welcomed New Delhi’s decision on Wednesday, lauding Prime Minister Modi’s “strong leadership in helping not just India, but humanity, in this fight.” The U.S. president had previously talked of ‘retaliation’ if the Modi government were to cut the supply of chloroquine drug in midst of the outbreak

Hydroxychloroquine is not yet FDA-approved for the treatment of coronavirus, but the antiviral drug has shown positive results in treating infected patients. “A promising laboratory study,” according to the New York Times, “found that chloroquine could block the coronavirus from invading cells which it must do to replicate and cause illness.”

Israeli tech news website NoCamels reported the drug’s role in the treatment:

In a study published last month in Nature, the authors wrote that “chloroquine is a cheap and a safe drug that has been used for more than 70 years and, therefore, it is potentially clinically applicable against the 2019-nCoV.” Earlier this month, a joint Italian-Israeli study published in Critical Care, a peer-reviewed, international clinical medical journal, found that there was “sufficient pre-clinical rationale and evidence regarding the effectiveness of chloroquine for treatment of COVID-19 as well as evidence of safety from long-time use in clinical practice.”

By exempting the U.S. and Israel from its blanket ban, New Delhi is reaffirming its growing economic and national security ties with both countries. In 2016, the U.S. recognized the country as “Major Defense Partner,” a designation that allows it to buy advanced defense technologies and systems reserved only for Washington’s key allies.

Counter-terrorism and cyber security dominate Israel-India ties as well. In recent years, New Delhi has emerged as the biggest buyer of Israeli weapons. Even before the two countries established full diplomatic ties in early 1990s, Israel supplied India with arms and ammunition in times of war when many Western countries refused to help. During the India-Pakistan war of 1999 (the Kargil War), Israel delivered laser-guided missiles to the Indian Air Force, tipping the balance in India’s favor. With shipping much sought-after antiviral drugs to Israel, New Delhi has stepped up to help an old and trusted ally.

President Trump hails Prime Minister Modi’s decision to export chloroquine to the U.S.

[Cover image via YouTube]


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