A composite image showing PM Narendra Modi and leaders from the SAARC nations during a video conference on Covid-19 on 15 March | Photo: ANI
File photo | PM Narendra Modi and leaders from SAARC nations during a video conference on Covid-19 on 15 March 2020 | ANI
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New Delhi: Even as India grapples with the spread of the coronavirus disease internally, the country is ramping up its assistance to neighbouring countries to fight the menace as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative with the South Asian cooperation body SAARC.

Having first assisted the Maldives, India is now in the process of sending a rapid response team (RRT) to Nepal to assist with the Covid-19 situation there, the director general of Armed Forces Medical Services, Lt Gen. Anup Banerji, said in response to a query from reporters.

An RRT mainly consists of doctors and trained assistants, along with necessary equipment and medicines. The doctors are drawn from all three services — the Army, the Air Force and the Navy — who will help train Nepalese authorities in setting up quarantine camps and testing facilities.

MEA sources told ThePrint that Nepal had unofficially sought assistance from India in its fight against the coronavirus.

India’s 14-member team that went to the Maldives is now back, having set up medical centres that can function as quarantine facilities for those who tested positive for coronavirus.

Also read: After Nepal, Bhutan, now Afghanistan & Maldives pledge support to SAARC COVID-19 fund

Help on offer

Lt Gen. Banerji said the assistance will be provided to other countries, as and when it is sought from India’s Ministry of External Affairs and Ministry of Defence.

The assistance will include building infrastructural capabilities and sending expert manpower to friendly foreign countries, referred to as FFCs in parlance.

The Navy has also kept two ships on standby for immediate deployment to any foreign country if the need arises, sources said.

India has pledged a contribution of $10 million towards a ‘SAARC Covid-19 Emergency Fund’ proposed by Modi during a video conference with other members of the regional grouping — Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.

As on 26 March, 462,684 people have been affected by Covid-19 worldwide. About 20,834 lives have been lost, according to the official website created for SAARC’s joint effort against the coronavirus.

The SAARC region comprises of over 21 per cent of the world’s population, and remains vulnerable towards Covid-19. The member states have reported 2,030 cases and a total of 32 deaths in the region.

Also read: SAARC meeting on COVID confirmed 2 things – Pakistan is petty and India isn’t as big as China


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