Calls for unity and cooperation between South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations were given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to combat coronavirus during the SAARC video conference, however Pakistan ‘churlishly’ used this platform to raise the Kashmir Issue, reports NDTV.
Pakistan has called for the immediate lifting of the "lockdown" in the valley to allow disease containment measures. The Indian government called this an attempt to "politicise" a humanitarian issue by raising "unwarranted" statement on Kashmir during a crucial video conference on coronavirus.
The video conference was attended by Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Bhutanese premier Lotay Tshering, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza.
PM Modi while addressing the leaders of SAARC said, India's guiding mantra to deal with the virus was "prepare, but don't panic". He further added, "We were careful to not underestimate the problem, but also to avoid knee-jerk reactions."
Modi also stressed that the SAARC nations must work together to fight this crisis and must respond to the coronavirus pandemic by "coming together, not growing apart".
There is still no confirmation if Pakistan has managed to bring all its students from China. However, in the absence of PM Imran Khan, his Special Assistant on Health Zafar Mirza used the occasion to hail China for its efforts to deal with coronavirus and urged other SAARC nations to learn best practices from it.
Mirza during the video conference said, "Equity in health is a fundamental principle of public health" and for Pakistan, it is a matter of concern. He further added that all lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir must be lifted immediately.
He stressed on opening up communication and movement which will allow distribution of medical supplies and allow containment.
Prime Minister Modi made a series of suggestions which were hailed by the SAARC leaders and representatives.
PM Modi noted that it is still to be seen what shape the pandemic would take in the days to come and pitched to the SAARC leaders the creation of a COVID-19 Emergency Fund based on voluntary contributions to help the member nations mitigate the challenge.
PM Modi apprised the world leaders that India can start with an initial contribution of $10 million for the formation of the said fund.
PM told the SAARC leaders, "We are assembling a Rapid Response Team of doctors and specialists in India, along with testing kits and other equipment. They will be on stand-by, to be placed at your disposal, if required."
Modi also said India is willing to share its Integrated Disease Surveillance Portal to trace possible virus carriers and the disease surveillance software with SAARC partners.
Speaking to the heads of state of SAARC nations, Modi stressed on the importance of creating a regional platform to coordinate research on controlling epidemic diseases within our South Asian region.
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