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Pakistan proposes to host SAARC health ministers’ meet to fight COVID-19


A general view shows a closed market during a government-imposed lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Peshawar on March 24, 2020. (Photo by ABDUL MAJEED/AFP via Getty Images)
A general view shows a closed market during a government-imposed lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Peshawar on March 24, 2020. (Photo by ABDUL MAJEED/AFP via Getty Images)

PAKSTAN Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday (24) proposed to host a conference of the SAARC health ministers’ to discuss a joint strategy to tackle the deadly coronavirus.

He made the proposal during a telephone conversation with Bangladeshi Foreign Minister A K Abdul Momen.

The Foreign Office said that the two ministers discussed the challenges faced by regional countries in the face of rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and exchanged ideas on ways to combat the threat.

Qureshi underscored that Pakistan considered the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) an important platform for regional cooperation.

“Reaffirming Pakistan’s abiding commitment to the SAARC process, he reiterated Pakistan’s readiness to host the SAARC Health Ministers’ conference to enhance cooperation among member countries and development partners in health sector with particular focus on COVID-19,” the FO said.

He also proposed that a video conference could be organized first in view of the prevailing situation.

Appreciating Pakistan’s offer, Momen conveyed Bangladesh’s readiness to participate in the video conference, according to FO.

Discussing the need to share resources, it was underlined that SAARC COVID-19 emergency fund should be placed under the Secretary General of SAARC and the modalities for its utilization should be finalized through consultations at the earliest.

In a video conference on forming a joint strategy to fight COVID-19 in the SAARC region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 15 proposed the emergency fund with an initial offer of $10 million from India and asserted that the best way to deal with the coronavirus pandemic was by coming together, and not growing apart.

Subsequently, Nepal and Afghanistan pledged $1 million each, Maldives committed $ 200,000, Bhutan $100,000 and Bangladesh pledged $1.5 million to the fund. Sri Lanka on Monday pledged to contribute $5 million to the fund.

Pakistan is now the only country left to declare its contribution to the fund.

The two Foreign Ministers stressed the need for joint efforts to address the situation.

Founded in 1985, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a regional intergovernmental organisation and geopolitical union of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.