A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to SAARC leaders to participate in a video conference to discuss the rapidly spreading coronavirus, the Ministry of External Affairs said a call has been scheduled at 5 pm Sunday. Leaders of all eight countries — Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka — are expected to participate.
The Prime Minister had reached out to the regional grouping Friday, pitching to them the idea of a video conference to chalk out a strong strategy to combat the outbreak.
Among the eight SAARC nations, India has so far recorded 82 cases followed by Pakistan (20), Maldives (8), Afghanistan (7), Bangladesh (3), Sri Lanka (2), and Nepal and Bhutan (1 each).
Timely action for a healthier planet.
Tomorrow at 5 PM, leaders of SAARC nations will discuss, via conferencing, a roadmap to fight the challenge of COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus.
I am confident that our coming together will lead to effective outcomes and benefit our citizens.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 14, 2020
While leaders from Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives welcomed the initiative, it was Pakistan’s positive response which came as a surprise to many. “We have communicated that SAPM (Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister) on Health (Zafar Mirza) will be available to participate in the video conference of SAARC member countries on the issue,” Pakistan Foreign Office Spokesperson Aisha Farooqui had said in a tweet on Friday.
In a series of tweets on Friday, PM Modi had said, “Our planet is battling the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. At various levels, governments and people are trying their best to combat it. South Asia, which is home to a significant number of the global population should leave no stone unturned to ensure our people are healthy.”
He further wrote: “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.”
Meanwhile, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson also got on a call with PM Modi to discuss the spread of coronavirus globally as most countries are going into a shutdown mode.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines