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Fact Check: No, Donald Trump did not threaten India with 'retaliation' over hydroxychloroquine

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Summary

US president was responding to a question asked by a journalist about retaliation to the US's decision to ban the export of medical goods. The claim that Mr trump threatened India is false.

The US is one of the worst-hit countries with over 380,000 confirmed coronavirus and 12,000 deaths as of April 7. The superpower is doing everything to contain the further spread of the novel virus, including advocating the use of hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19 patients.

US President Donald Trump has presented the drug as a "game-changer" even though his health experts are not sure about its effectiveness against coronavirus. India is the biggest producer and exporter of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug and banned its export, along with a bunch of others deeming them essential for its own domestic to fight the pandemic. 

On April 7, during a White House press conference Trump spoke about hydroxychloroquine and India's stand on the export of the drug amid the coronavirus crises. Following the conference, multiple media reports claim that the US threatened "retaliation" if India did not clear exports of the US. 

Many media houses including The guardian and AlJazeera published reports claiming the US threatened India with retaliation. Hindustan Times also published a report on similar lines titled, "Trump talks of ‘retaliation’ if India turns down anti-malarial drug request". 

One of the excerpts of a Business Today report reads, "Countries like the United States have been seeking India's help to allow the sale of hydroxychloroquine tablets to treat the growing number of coronavirus patients. During a White House briefing on Monday, Trump said he would be surprised if India refused to supply these medicines. Threatening India of retaliation, Trump said he spoke to PM Modi on Sunday morning. "If he (Modi) doesn't allow it to come out, that would be okay, but of course there may be retaliation. Why wouldn't there be?" he added."

Social media is also flooded with similar claims. Mohammed Zubair, the co-founder of Alt News, shared a screenshot of Rahul Kanwal's tweet where he said that India has 'accepted the requested of Donald Trump to export hydroxychloroquine to US', and suggested that India was threatened with retaliation, and not 'requested.'

Journalist Nidhi Razdan also made a similar claim while retweeting a small clip of the conference. She said, "Here is President Trump threatening India with " retaliation" just hours ago if it doesn't supply HCQ to the US."

The truth behind the claim

After watching the White House press conference video of April 7,  the first thing that becomes evident is that Donald Trump was not making a unilateral statement threatening 'retaliation' against India. He was actually responding to a question asked by a report. You can watch the relevant part in the following video at 30:42.

Here's the conversation. 

Reporter: Thank you, sir, are you worried about (a) retaliation to your decision to ban (the) export of medical goods like Indian prime minister Modi's decision to not export hydroxychloroquine to (the) United States and other countries?

Trump: I don't like that decision if that's er... I don't... I didn't hear that that was his decision. I know that he stopped it for other countries. I spoke to him yesterday, we had a very good talk and we will see whether or not that's his ... I would be surprised if he would, you know because India's [sic] does very well with the United States. For many years, they have been taking advantage of the United States on trade so I would be surprised if that was his decision... He'd have to tell me that. I spoke to him Sunday morning, called him, and I said we appreciate your 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 there be?

Clearly,  the reported questioned Trump was whether 'he' was worried about retaliation to a decision 'he' took to ban exports of medical supplies from the US while likening it to the situation to the Narendra Modi government's move last week to ban exports of hydroxychloroquine. To this Trump replied by firstly speaking about his dislike about India's decision and his phone conversation with PM Narendra Modi. In the very end, he says, "if he (PM Modi) doesn't allow it to come out that would be okay but, of course, there may be retaliation, why wouldn't there be?"

Trump's statement might give a wrong impression and seem as Donald Trump was threatening retaliation against India if it did not allow its hydroxychloroquine to come out when read independently. But when read in the context of the question asked by the reporter, it is clear that Trump was actually answering the question posed to him, which means he said, "there might be retaliation to the US government's move to bar exports of medical supplies."

It is surprising to see how prominent media houses did not even check the source carefully before making these claims. Interestingly, the small clip shared by Nidhi Razdan, that was originally posted by Suhasini Haider  just started after the reported said, "Thank you, sir, are you worried about (a) retaliation to your decision to", i.e, the clip started only has this part of reporters question, " ban (the) export of medical goods like Indian prime minister Modi's decision to not export hydroxychloroquine to (the) United States and other countries?" It appears more than just a 'mere coincidence.'

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