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Visa for doctors to air ambulances — neighbours including Pakistan ‘support’ 5 Modi proposals

Modi addressed workshop on Covid management in which 10 nations participated. Officials say all were 'upfront' in saying they agree to all his suggestions, further discussions soon.

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New Delhi: Special visa for doctors and nurses, air ambulance agreement for medical contingencies and establishment of a common platform to study effectiveness of Covid19 vaccines — neighbourhing countries including Pakistan have given nod to five proposals made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ThePrint learnt.

India Thursday conducted a one-day workshop with nine neighbouring countries — including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Seychelles and Sri Lanka — on “COVID-19 Management: Experience, Good Practices and Way Forward”.

The event was inaugurated with PM Modi’s video address in which he suggested several points for the discussion.

A senior official, who participated in the event, told ThePrint that every country gave nod to Modi’s suggestions, and further discussions will be undertaken soon.

“All countries were upfront in saying we support all of the suggestions. Not even a single country’s representative has said that we will get back or respond later,” said the official.

“We will soon begin further discussions on how to convert the suggestions into reality.”

Another source in the government confirmed this: “All countries have agreed that there was a need for such cooperation on a regional basis for fighting such pandemics. They have proposed a structured discussion for regional cooperation on these proposals to take them forward.”

Also read: India ‘pharmacy to world’ but sector is fragmented, unorganised — foreign firms’ lobby says

Countries thank India for free vaccines

The workshop was chaired by Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

The event was attended by the health secretaries of all neighbourhood countries along with their technical heads. “Some countries had sent two technical advisers to attend the workshop along with their health secretary. Moreover, from Pakistan, special adviser to the Prime Minister, Mr Imran Khan, also attended the event,” said the official quoted above.

The official said all the countries, except Pakistan, thanked India for giving them Covid-19 vaccines for free.

“Eight countries, except Pakistan, thanked us for giving Covid-19 vaccines free of cost. They also thanked us for supplying medicines, equipement in the earlier stages of the pandemic.”

Pakistan is using vaccines manufactured by Chinese firm Sinopharm.

Suggestions by Modi

As part of the welcome speech to kickstart the meeting, the PM suggested a few points for the discussion and put across five proposals.

According to the PM’s video address uploaded on his official Twitter handle, his primary suggestion was to consider the creation of a “special visa scheme for our doctors and nurses, so that they can travel quickly within our region during health emergencies, on the request of the receiving country”.

He also suggested exploring the possibility if the civil aviation ministries can coordinate a “regional Air Ambulance agreement for medical contingencies.”

Another suggestion was about the creation of a regional platform for collating, compiling and studying data about the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines among the region’s populations.

“Can we similarly create a regional network for promoting technology-assisted epidemiology, for preventing future pandemics?” Modi said in his address.

His last suggestion to the neighbouring countries was about sharing successful public health policies and schemes with each other.

“Beyond COVID-19, can we also share our successful public health policies and schemes?,” he asked, adding: “…from India, our Ayushman Bharat and Jan Arogya schemes may be useful case-studies for our friends in the region.”

Also read: India has set an example in global diplomacy with Covid, climate change, says Jaishankar


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