New Delhi: Amid heightened bilateral tensions with India, Pakistan has said it will participate in the eight-nation SAARC’s video conference proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to jointly combat the coronavirus outbreak.
On Saturday, Islamabad said that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Special Assistant on health, Zafar Mirza, will participate in the video conference. All SAARC leaders, except Khan, will be part of the video conference.
“The threat of #COVID-19 requires coordinated efforts at global and regional level. We have communicated that SAPM on Health will be available to participate in the video conference of #SAARC member countries on the issue,” Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson Aisha Farooqui tweeted.
The threat of #COVID-19 requires coordinated efforts at global and regional level. We have communicated that SAPM on Health will be available to participate in the video conference of #SAARC member countries on the issue.
— Spokesperson 🇵🇰 MoFA (@ForeignOfficePk) March 13, 2020
Government sources told ThePrint that the conference will be held tomorrow.
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SAARC nations welcome move
After PM Narendra Modi took an initiative Friday to deal with the coronavirus outbreak via a video conference, leaders of the other nations in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) responded positively.
I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight Coronavirus.
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.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 13, 2020
Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, who has been urging New Delhi for a while to revive SAARC, hailed the decision.
I welcome the idea advanced by Prime Minister Modiji @narendramodi for chalking out a strong strategy by the leadership of the SAARC nations to fight Coronavirus. My government is ready to work closely with SAARC Member States to protect our citizens from this deadly disease.
— KP Sharma Oli (@PM_Nepal) March 13, 2020
Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering lauded Modi for his “leadership”, adding that as a small country, it believes in the regional grouping’s significance.
This is what we call leadership. As members of this region, we must come together in such times. Smaller economies are hit harder, so we must coordinate. With your leadership, I have no doubt we will see immediate and impactful outcome. Looking forward to the video conference. https://t.co/2RnokAJQOs
— PM Bhutan (@PMBhutan) March 13, 2020
While Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.K. Momen said this was a “good proposal”, Afghanistan’s ambassador to India Tahir Qadiry referred to it as a “timely” call.
Afghanistan Envoy to India, Tahir Qadri: In response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for creating a robust strategy for SAARC nations, aiming at tackling #CoronavirusPandemic, I would like to acknowledge his call. United we stand, divided we fall! pic.twitter.com/cBXe2Lom3s
— ANI (@ANI) March 13, 2020
Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa Gotabaya, who had pushed for revival of SAARC during his maiden visit to India as the President last November, said, “Let’s unite in solidarity during these trying times and keep our citizens safe.”
Thank you for the great initiative Shri @narendramodi – #LKA is ready to join the discussion & share our learnings & best practices and to learn from other #SAARC members. Let’s unite in solidarity during these trying times and keep our citizens safe. https://t.co/fAiT5w3O8D
— Gotabaya Rajapaksa (@GotabayaR) March 13, 2020
Proposal could revive SAARC engagement
PM Narendra Modi is likely to have taken this step now keeping in mind that New Delhi will host the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit later this year, for which it intends to invite Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The video conference proposal comes amid India’s refusal to actively participate in SAARC after the September 2016 Uri attacks. The SAARC leadership has not met since then.
The last SAARC Summit was held in November 2014 in Kathmandu. The next summit, which was scheduled to take place in November 2016 in Islamabad, was postponed amid tensions between India and Pakistan over the attack on a military camp in Uri.
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This report has been updated to add the conference’s date and details of the participation of SAARC leaders.
How wonderful for The Print and the author to be able to highlight that their good and virtuous country of “Pakistan Said Yes,” thus proving Pakistani goodness and virtuosity. Whereas, in fact, all SAARC leaders will attend but Pak will send only its “special assistant for health.” Nevertheless, let The Print rejoice for a moment.
This is time to save mankind. That’s why PM Shri Narendra Modi recall the SAARC summit. Its great thing that all we have to appreciate. He never think only his official duty as a Nation’s interest. He showed India’s great culture ”VISHWA KA KALYAN HO”.
Our PM Modiji taken a step forward meeting in video conference with other members how to fight jointly with Corona virus to provide safety to people of countries of SAARC members and to give a message to World we are peace abiding and love our all neighbours and can fight with deadly COVID 19 with co-operation with SAARC Government Heads and draft means how we can make it possible.PM Modiji has taken a bold step through this disease an inspirational message of love to all.Let all to live in peace,a highest humanitarian approach and fight together with this disease and provide safety to all human beings.
Wonderful. Covid 19 is an immediate emergency. There are others, like climate change and the melting of the Himalayan glaciers, where the countries of the subcontinent need to work together. I have always believed that an India not at peace with its neighbourhood can never emerge as a major, credible power.
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