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Video Conference of Leaders of SAARC Countries

Posted on: March 16, 2020 | Back | Print

  • In view of the continuing spread of COVID-19, now declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO), Leaders of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) convened via videoconference on Sunday, March 15, 2020, at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • The meeting enabled Leaders to share assessments of the current situation relating to this pandemic, consider best practices, and identify cooperative measures and approaches for each country to minimize and mitigate the spread of the disease while averting public panic and minimising possible economic impacts. Joining the Indian Prime Minister at this videoconference were Their Excellencies the Presidents of Afghanistan, Maldives and Sri Lanka; the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, the Minister of State for Health of Pakistan, and the Secretary-General of SAARC.
  • Leaders expressed appreciation for this initiative, recognizing the importance of regional cooperation in meeting this common challenge. As Prime Minister Modi underscored, the SAARC region could set an example to the world, for regional coordination to address complex cross-border challenges. He sugggested in this context the establishment of a SAARC Emergency Response Fund for COVID-19, with an initial US $ 10 million contribution from India. India also proposed follow-up discussions between medical professionals of the SAARC region, as well as trade and economic officials, to further assess the impact of this pandemic. India also offered to deploy its specially-constituted Rapid Response Teams of medical and other professionals, and testing equipment, to any SAARC partner country. Support was also offered for capacity-building including through online training modules, establishment of a repository of best practices of dealing with COVID-19 at SAARC Disaster Management Centre, and a website with information in each of the SAARC languages. India also offered to share its software for Integrated Health Information for Disease Surveillance.
  • Looking ahead, India also offered support by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) for a platform of SAARC States to share ideas for diagnostic and the therapeutic intervention for epidemics.
  • The Heads of State and Government of the SAARC countries welcomed these ideas and reiterated the value of continuing to work closely together against the COVID-19 pandemic.
New Delhi
March 16, 2020