Modi for SAARC initiative to contain spread of COVID- 19

Kathmandu, March 13

Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi has proposed that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight coronavirus pandemic. Modi’s offer was lauded by other leaders of the SAARC region, including Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.

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.

Together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet.

— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 13, 2020

Modi wrote on Twitter that he was ready to discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep citizens of the region healthy.

“Together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet,” tweeted Modi.

South Asia, which is home to a significant population, should leave no stone unturned to ensure ‘our people are healthy’, Modi wrote on the social networking site.

Oli, who has been recuperating from a second kidney transplant surgery, welcomed the idea advanced by his Indian counterpart and tweeted, “My government is ready to work closely with SAARC member states to protect our citizens from this deadly disease.”

Prime Minister of Bhutan Lotay Tshering also responded to Modi’s tweet. “Smaller economies are hit harder, so we must coordinate. With your leadership, I have no doubt we will see immediate and impactful outcome. Looking forward to the video conference,” Tshering tweeted.

But for Pakistan, leaders of all other SAARC nations have responded to Modi’s offer.

Sri Lankan President Gotabya Rajapaksa said his country was ready to join the discussion. “Let’s unite in solidarity during these trying times and keep our citizens safe,” Rajapaksa said.

Maldives President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih tweeted, “COVID19 requires collective effort to defeat it. Maldives welcomes this proposal and would fully support such a regional effort.”

Bangladesh’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam tweeted that Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina welcomed the proposal and looked forward to a constructive dialogue with Modi, KP Sharma Oli and other heads of states and governments who had already consented to discuss way forward at this testing time for the region and the world.

Spokesperson for the President of Afghanistan Sediq Sediqqi tweeted, “The Afghan Government strongly welcomes the proposal of the Prime Minister of India and readiness of the other SAARC members to work together devising a unified strategy to fight the Coronavirus in the region.”

The SAARC Secretariat also welcomed Modi’s proposal, as well as the support of other SAARC leaders and said it was ready to work with all member states towards a strong strategy to fight the contagion in the SAARC region.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Pradeep Gyawali could not be contacted for comments.

Former foreign secretary Madhu Raman Acharya said there was already a rapid response mechanism under SAARC which the leaders of the regional group could activate to mobilise fund and share information among the SAARC countries. He said SAARC countries could designate nodal officers in their respective countries to cooperate with one another and screen people at border points.