Covid-19 crisis: Modi dials former presidents, PMs; and opposition leaders

File Photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Amid criticism that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not reached out to opposition leaders even as the country faces a grave health crisis and a 21-day lockdown, he phoned several opposition leaders on Sunday, including Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi, former prime ministers and former presidents.

Modi is scheduled to meet floor leaders of all political parties in Parliament on Wednesday.

The prime minister also had telephonic conversations with several world leaders over the past few days, including Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and US President Donald Trump on Saturday
Trump said later on Saturday he requested Modi to allow supply of hydroxychloroquine tablets — an anti-malaria drug that can be used to treat Covid-19 patients in the US. India has banned export of the medicine.

Modi called former presidents Pranab Mukherjee and Pratibha Patil, former prime ministers Manmohan Singh and H D Deve Gowda, and opposition leaders Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik, M K Stalin, Akhilesh Yadav and K Chandrashekar Rao.

Earlier this week, he had also held a meeting with the chief ministers via videoconferencing. Banerjee did not attend that meeting.

Several opposition leaders have criticised Modi's appeal to light diyas on Sunday night as “symbolism” when the country needs an effective financial action plan. While Modi has consulted former prime minister Singh on a few occasions, he has rarely reached out to Gandhi over the last six years.

In his conversation with the US president, Modi and Trump exchanged views on the Covid-19 pandemic and agreed to “deploy the full strength of the India-US partnership to resolutely and effectively combat Covid-19”.

“The two leaders also touched upon the significance of practices such as yoga and ayurveda (traditional Indian herbal medicine practice) for ensuring physical and mental well-being in these difficult times,” a statement said.

“After the call today (Saturday) with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India is giving serious consideration to releasing the hold it put on a US order for hydroxychloroquine,” Trump announced at the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing.

“India makes a lot of it. They need a lot too for their billion-plus people. The hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug, will be released through the Strategic National Stockpile for treatment,” he said. “I said I would appreciate it if they would release the amounts that we ordered,” Trump said.

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo had discussions with foreign minister S Jaishankar last week about the importance of continued close cooperation between the US and India to combat coronavirus.

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