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Published On: Sat, Mar 14th, 2020

Pak will attend video conference on coronavirus proposed by PM Modi

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NEW DELHI : Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take part in a video conference with other SAARC nations at 5 pm on Sunday to evolve a joint strategy to fight the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak that has killed more than 5,000 people worldwide and infected 1.3 lakh others.
After PM Narendra Modi took an initiative Friday to deal with the coronavirus outbreak via a video conference, leaders of the other nations in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) responded positively.
“Come together for (the) common good! 15 March, 1700 IST. PM  Modi will lead India at the video conference call of all SAARC member countries, to chalk out a strong common strategy to fight COVID-19 in the region,” Raveesh Kumar, the External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, tweeted this evening.
The video conference comes on the back of a tweet by PM Modi calling on SAARC countries to work together to contain this deadly pandemic. “I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight coronavirus. We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy,” the Prime Minister tweeted on Friday.
We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy. Together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet. South Asia, which is home to a significant number of the global population, should leave no stone unturned to ensure that the people are healthy, PM Modi said in another tweet.
India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka are members of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation).
Prime Minister Modi’s call was well received by member countries, with a Pakistan Foreign Affairs spokesperson tweeting early this morning to acknowledge the need for “coordinated efforts at global and regional level(s)”. The Prime Minister of Bhutan and Sri Lanka President Gotabaya Rajapaksa were among those who thanked PM Modi for the initiative.
There are over 80 confirmed cases in the country and, as per data from the World Health Organisation, there are 126 cases in SAARC region; Pakistan has 20 COVID-19 cases.
Amid heightened bilateral tensions with India, Pakistan has said it will participate in the eight-nation SAARC’s video conference proposed by PM Modi to jointly combat the coronavirus outbreak. On Saturday, Islamabad said that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Special Assistant on health, Zafar Mirza, will participate in the video conference.
“The threat of #COVID-19 requires coordinated efforts at global and regional level. We have communicated that SAPM on Health will be available to participate in the video conference of #SAARC member countries on the issue,” Pakistan foreign ministry spokesperson Aisha Farooqui tweeted.
Nepal Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, who has been urging New Delhi for a while to revive SAARC, hailed the decision. Bhutan Prime Minister Lotay Tshering lauded Modi for his “leadership”, adding that as a small country, it believes in the regional grouping’s significance.
While Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A.K. Momen said this was a “good proposal”, Afghanistan’s ambassador to India Tahir Qadiry referred to it as a “timely” call. Afghanistan Envoy to India, Tahir Qadri: In response to PM Modi’s call for creating a robust strategy for SAARC nations, aiming at tackling #CoronavirusPandemic, I would like to acknowledge his call. United we stand, divided we fall!

Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa Gotabaya, who had pushed for revival of SAARC during his maiden visit to India as the President last November, said, “Let’s unite in solidarity during these trying times and keep our citizens safe.” Let’s unite in solidarity during these trying times and keep our citizens safe.

PM Narendra Modi is likely to have taken this step now keeping in mind that New Delhi will host the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Summit later this year, for which it intends to invite Pakistan PM Imran Khan.
The video conference proposal comes amid India’s refusal to actively participate in SAARC after the September 2016 Uri attacks. The SAARC leadership has not met since then. The last SAARC Summit was held in November 2014 in Kathmandu.

The next summit, which was scheduled to take place in November 2016 in Islamabad, was postponed amid tensions between India and Pakistan over the attack on a military camp in Uri.
(With Agency Inputs ).

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