Zafar Mirza, special adviser on health to PM Imran Khan, represented Pakistan in the SAARC video conference organised at PM Narendra Modi’s suggestion.
New Delhi| SAARC nations on Sunday vowed to jointly combat coronavirus as PM Narendra Modi proposed an emergency fund with an initial offer of USD 10 million from India and asserted that the region can best respond to the pandemic by coming together and not growing apart.
In his opening remarks, PM Modi said India’s guiding mantra to deal with the virus was “prepare, but don’t panic”.
“We were careful to not underestimate the problem, but also to avoid knee-jerk reactions,” he said.
“I propose we create a COVID-19 Emergency Fund. This could be based on voluntary contributions from all of us. India can start with an initial offer of 10 million dollars for this fund. Any of us can use the fund to meet the cost of immediate actions,” PM Modi said.
He said the member nations’ foreign secretaries, through embassies, can coordinate quickly to finalise the utilisation of this fund.
Sources later said the funds from India will be made available immediately.
The fund will be coordinated through embassies and it will be used for immediate mitigation of the disease, they said.
Health adviser to Pakistan PM – Zafar Mirza, PM Narendra Modi, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli, Bhutanese premier Lotay Tshering, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, participated in the video conference.
The underlying message of the video conference was unitedly taking on the pandemic, where Pakistan raised Kashmir issue, Mirza called for the “lockdown” to be lifted in Jammu and Kashmir to deal with the coronavirus threat.
In his concluding remarks during the 90-minute video conference, Mirza said Pakistan hoped Saarc members would “provide access to emergency assistance to all our regions in our countries”.
He added, “In this regard … it is a matter of concern that Covid-19 has been reported from Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and in view of the health emergency it is imperative that all lockdown in the disputed territory must be lifted immediately.”
Mirza said opening up communications and movement will help dissemination of information, distribution of medical supplies, and implementation of containment and relief efforts.
Union Territory of J&K has confirmed a total of 2 coronavirus cases and India has recorded over 110 cases as of 16th March.