Pakistan to join video conference of Saarc nations on coronavirus

By: News Desk      Published: 11:44 AM, 14 Mar, 2020
Pakistan to join video conference of Saarc nations on coronavirus

The threat posed by the novel coronavirus outbreak seems to have spurred the spirit of cooperation among countries in South Asia with Pakistan too expressing its willingness to join a video conference of the nations in the region as suggested by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Aisha Farooqui, in a Twitter post early Saturday, said, "The threat of #COVID-19 requires coordinated efforts at the global and regional level. We have communicated that SAPM on Health will be available to participate in the video conference of SAARC member countries on the issue."

Islamabad is expected to be represented by Special Assistant to Pakistan Prime Minister (SAPM) Dr Zafar Mirza. This has reportedly been conveyed to India through diplomatic channels as well.

On Friday, six of eight SAARC countries had welcomed Modi’s offer of a conference to chalk out a common strategy to fight the COVID-19 and confirmed their participation in the conference via video links. These included Bhutan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

SAARC refers to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation – which groups together Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka besides India. Born in the mid-1980s, the grouping has little to show for itself given that progress on issues like regional integration and connectivity has been slow mainly due to infighting between India and Pakistan.

Pakistan was to host a summit of SAARC leaders in 2016 but India, Afghanistan, Bhutan and Bangladesh pulled out under Indian pressure. No summit of SAARC has been held since.

All SAARC countries have reported COVID-19 cases. India recorded its second fatality due to the diseases on Friday with the number of positive cases rising to 81. Worldwide, COVID-19’cases have been reported from more than 120 countries with the death toll close to 5,000.