Containing COVID-19: Saarc leaders to hold video conference today
In a significant move, Saarc leaders will hold a video conference today to chalk out a strong common strategy to fight COVID-19 in the region.
Indian Prime Minister Naredra Modi will lead the conference at 1700 hours IST, tweeted Indian Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar yesterday.
"Coming together for common good!" he said as the region braces for a serious health crisis caused by novel coronavirus which has infected more than 150,000 people and killed more than 5,700 globally.
The video conference comes on the back of a tweet by PM Modi on Friday calling on Saarc countries to work together to contain this deadly pandemic.
"We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy…together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet," he tweeted.
The move was welcomed by every member nations including Pakistan.
Saarc has failed to hold any summit after 2014 due to tussle between India and Pakistan. The last summit, which was scheduled to take place in Pakistan's Islamabad in 2016, was cancelled due to India's withdrawal from it. The move came after the 2016 Pathankot attack in Indian Kashmir. India accused Pakistan of orchestrating it.
Bangladesh State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Shahriar Alam, said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina welcomes the proposal and looks forward to a constructive dialogue with the Saarc leaders and others who already consented to discuss way forward at this testing time for the region and the world.
Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih thanked Modi for taking the initiative and pledged full support.
Nepal's Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli said his government is ready to work closely with Saarc member states to protect the people of the region from the deadly disease.
Thanking the Indian PM for his leadership, Bhutanese PM Lotay Tshering said the region must come together to face the crisis.
"Smaller economies are hit harder, so we must coordinate. With your (Narendra Modi) leadership, I have no doubt we will see immediate and impactful outcome. Looking forward to the video conference," he added.
Pakistan also responded positively to Modi's proposal, saying it was ready to participate in the conference, acknowledging that coordinated efforts were needed to minimise the threat posed by the deadly virus.
"We have communicated that SAPM (special assistant to Pakistani prime minister) on health (Zafar Mirza) will be available to participate in the video conference of Saarcmember countries on the issue," Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said in a tweet on Friday.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said he is ready to join the discussion and share Sri Lankan's learnings and best practices and to learn from other Saarc members.
"Let's unite in solidarity during these trying times and keep our citizens safe."As of now, India has recorded 83 cases, the maximum number of coronavirus cases in the eight members Saarc nations. It is followed by Pakistan (20), Maldives (8), Afghanistan (7), Bangladesh (5), Sri Lanka (2), and Nepal and Bhutan one each.