Mar 16, Colombo: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who led an initiative to seek cooperation of all SAARC nations to combat COVID-19 coronavirus, proposed creating e a COVID-19 Emergency Fund for SAARC nations and pledged US$ 10 million to start the fund.
Prime Minister Modi Sunday led a video conference with the leaders of all eight SAARC nations- India, Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, the Maldives, and Bhutan to exchange their views and share experiences in fighting the COVID-19 virus which has been classified by the World Health Organization as a global pandemic that has killed more than 6,000 people globally.
Proposing the initiative, the Premier said the COVID-19 Emergency Funds could be based on voluntary contributions from all of SAARC nations.
“India can start with an initial offer of 10 million US dollars for this fund. Any of us can use the fund to meet the cost of immediate actions. Our Foreign Secretaries, through our embassies can coordinate quickly to finalize the concept of this Fund and its operations,” he said.
IN addition, the Indian PM said they are assembling a Rapid Response Team of doctors and specialists in India, along with testing kits and other equipment. “They will be on stand-by, to be placed at your disposal, if required,” he said.
“We can also quickly arrange online training capsules for your emergency response teams. This will be based on the model we have used in our own country, to raise the capacity of all our emergency staff,” he added.
According to Prime Minister Modi, India had set up an Integrated Disease Surveillance Portal to better trace possible virus carriers and the people they contacted and India could share this Disease Surveillance software with SAARC partners, and training on using this.
He suggested also using existing facilities, like the SAARC Disaster Management Centre, to pool in the best practices among all of the SAARC countries.
“Looking ahead, we could create a common Research Platform, to coordinate research on controlling epidemic diseases within our South Asian region,” Modi said adding that the Indian Council of Medical Research can offer help coordinating such an exercise.
“We can also ask our experts to brainstorm on the longer-term economic consequences of COVID-19, and how we can insulate our internal trade and our local value chains from its impact,” the Prime Minister suggested.
He said this will not be the first or the last such pandemic that will affect the region and therefore, the region should be prepared for future such risks.
“We should evolve common SAARC Pandemic Protocols which can be applied on all our borders as well as within our borders in such situations. This can help to prevent such infections from spreading across our region, and allow us to keep our internal movements free,” he noted.