SAARC leaders convene to set common strategies to fight COVID-19

KATHMANDU: As over 150 countries around the world are battling COVID-19, a global pandemic, leaders of member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) today participated in a video-conference to discuss the pandemic while setting common strategies in combating the aggressive virus.

The meeting was carrying out at the initiation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

At the conference, leaders shared their assessment of impact of the disease in their respective countries.

Addressing the same, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli thanked Narendra Modi for this timely intervention in combating the spread of disease in the region. He shared with his counterparts, actions undertaken by the government so far in preventing the threat of transmission.

"We have taken several initiatives to contain this disease from spreading in the country. A multi-agency coordination committee has been set up at all levels of governance to mobilise government efforts in a systematic manner." "We have restricted international movement and suspended on-arrival visas for foreigners including Non-Resident Nepalis with foreign visas," shared the Prime Minister.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who initiated the effort, pleaded to set up COVID-19 emergency fund worth US Dollar 10 million, based on voluntary contribution which could be used by any member state as and when required.

Responding to Modi's proposal, PM Oli showed resolve to make contribution to this fund. On a different note, the PM also stressed on using 'Namaste' as a mode of greeting instead of shaking hands to limit spread of the virus

He further said it is going to cost all of us dearly if the pandemic becomes widespread in the region. Regional discussion on reviving economies and supporting each other through providing easy access, establishing value chain and promoting intra-regional trade, tourism and connectivity would be critically important, stated Oli.

In the closing remarks of the conference, Indian PM Narendra Modi assured that his government would do his best to meet specific requests about medicines and medical equipments supplies made by the neighbours.

Meanwhile, most of the participants, directly and subtly batted for the revival of the regional forum for the wider benefit of the people of the region.

This is the first formal engagement between top-leaders of the SAARC since the Kathmandu-summit in 2014. India-Pakistan diplomatic tensions had powered the regional forum to a six-year hiatus.