PM Narendra Modi during the video conference of all SAARC member countries. (Photo Credit: PTI)
New Delhi :
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday made a strong pitch for SAARC nations to jointly combat coronavirus and proposed setting up a COVID-19 emergency fund. He pledged USD 10 million initially for the members of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to combat the coronavirus pandemic. PM Modi asserted that the best way to deal with the pandemic was by coming together, and not growing apart. “I propose we create a COVID-19 Emergency Fund. This could be based on voluntary contributions from all of us. India can start with an initial offer of 10 million US dollars for this fund,” PM Modi said.
Apart from PM Modi, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Bhutanese premier Lotay Tshering, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza participated in the video conference.
After initial remarks by the leaders, Prime Minister Modi made a series of suggestions which were hailed by the SAARC leaders and representatives.
“We are assembling a Rapid Response Team of doctors and specialists in India, along with testing kits and other equipment. They will be on stand-by, to be placed at your disposal, if required,” Modi told the SAARC leaders.
India had set up an Integrated Disease Surveillance Portal to better trace possible virus carriers and the people they contacted and it could share this disease surveillance software with SAARC partners, PM Modi said.
The underlying message of the video conference was unitedly taking on the pandemic, but Pakistan used the occasion to raise Kashmir, with Mirza calling for the “lockdown” to be eased in Jammu and Kashmir to deal with the coronavirus threat.