NEW DELHI, March 15 - Making a strong pitch for SAARC nations to jointly combat coronavirus, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday proposed setting up a COVID-19 emergency fund with India committing $10 million initially for it, and asserted that the best way to deal with the pandemic was by coming together, and not growing apart.
Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Bhutanese premier Lotay Tshering, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza also participated in the video conference.
The message of the video conference was unitedly taking on the pandemic, but Pakistan used the occasion to raise the Kashmir issue, with Mirza calling for the �lockdown� to be eased in Jammu and Kashmir to deal with the coronavirus threat.
Modi asserted that it was important for the SAARC member countries to work together. He said it was important to focus on collaboration, not confusion, and preparation, not panic.
Mirza, in his remarks, hailed China for its efforts to deal with the coronavirus and urged other SAARC nations to learn the best practices from it.
Modi made a series of suggestions which were hailed by the SAARC leaders and representatives. �I propose we create a COVID-19 Emergency Fund. This could be based on voluntary contributions from all of us. India can start with an initial offer of $10 million for this fund,� he said.
�We 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,� Modi told the SAARC leaders. � PTI