Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a video conference with SAARC leaders on chalking out a plan to combat the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus, in New Delhi | PTI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a video conference with SAARC leaders on chalking out a plan to combat the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus, in New Delhi | PTI
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New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has said the “seriousness” of each SAARC member to the grouping can be “gauged by their behaviour” as Pakistan finally committed $3 million to the SAARC Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund. 

“It is for each SAARC member state to decide on the timing, manner and implementation of their SAARC Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund commitments … The degree of seriousness of each nation can be gauged by their behaviour,” MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said Friday.  

While all other SAARC member countries had made their contributions to the emergency response fund within weeks of its establishment last month, Pakistan announced its contribution only Thursday.  

The creation of the SAARC Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund, under the SAARC Disaster Management Centre, was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15 March when India also made a “voluntary contribution” of $10 million.  

In the following couple of weeks, member countries barring Pakistan — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka — announced their contributions.  

“Where India is concerned, the commitment made by the Prime Minister is today in an advanced stage of implementation,” Srivastava added. “Assistance in material and services has been extended to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan,  Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka. These SAARC countries have also made early commitments to the Fund.” 

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

Islamabad finally contributes to fund

Islamabad finally decided to contribute to the fund after Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood spoke to the SAARC Secretary-General Esala Ruwan Weerakoon Thursday. Mahmood conveyed “Pakistan’s perspective in this regard”, according to a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) of Pakistan.

“Being a founding member, Pakistan considers SAARC an important platform for regional cooperation. Pakistan remains committed to the SAARC process and will continue working with the Member States to strengthen regional cooperation,” the statement said.

Pakistan also reiterated that it was apprised by the SAARC Secretariat that “all proceeds of the Fund should be administered by the SAARC Secretariat and that the modalities for the Fund’s utilisation should be finalised through consultations with the Member States as per the SAARC Charter”.  

As of 9 April, the total number of Covid-19 positive cases in the SAARC region stood at 10,919 with the total deaths at 270. Of the eight-member SAARC grouping, only Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal have not yet witnessed any novel coronavirus-related deaths, according to the latest situation report by the SAARC Disaster Management Centre. 

Also read: Modi wants COVID-19 video chat with G20 leaders, but his SAARC plans are yet to take off


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