New Delhi: The US has lauded India’s effort in working out a mechanism to contain the spread of COVID-19 or coronavirus by involving leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
“Global challenges require coordinated and agile responses. The recent videoconference among #SAARC leaders on #COVID19 showed how leaders can present practical proposals, such as establishing a regional fund. Let’s all keep working together to fight this worldwide outbreak,” tweeted Alice G. Wells, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the US State Department’s Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs.
Global challenges require coordinated and agile responses. The recent videoconference among #SAARC leaders on #COVID19 showed how leaders can present practical proposals, such as establishing a regional fund. Let’s all keep working together to fight this worldwide outbreak. AGW
— State_SCA (@State_SCA) March 16, 2020
This came after Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar had a “productive conversation” with the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on “ways the US and India can collaborate to fight the global coronavirus outbreak” Monday.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) March 15, 2020
The video-conference was held Sunday on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s initiative, who also proposed setting up a ‘SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund’.
Besides the US, the Russian government also welcomed PM Modi’s initiative and described the video-conference as “timely”.
— Russia in India (@RusEmbIndia) March 16, 2020
What India has offered
On Sunday, all the leaders of SAARC member countries — Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka — answered to PM Modi’s call to hold a video-conference to discuss ways to contain the spread of coronavirus in the South Asian region.
The video-conference was attended by all SAARC leaders, except Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was represented by his special assistant on health and Minister of State for Health Zafar Mirza.
During the video-conference, it was decided that an emergency fund will be created with voluntary contributions from member countries, and India has pledged $10 million initially.
India has also vowed to set up a rapid response teams of doctors, specialists and arrange for testing equipment, besides imparting online training to emergency response staff, among other things.
A common research platform has also been proposed under the SAARC framework, which will focus not only on coronavirus, but also on challenges posed by this kind of emergency in the future.
During the video-conference, Modi also suggested the establishment of common SAARC Pandemic Protocols, which can be applied on all borders to prevent the spread of deadly infections.
“This is not the first nor the last such pandemic that will affect us,” Modi had said.
So far, over 1,70,000 coronavirus cases have emerged globally and more than 6,600 deaths have been reported.
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