After skipping SAARC meet chaired by India stating that SAARC Secretariat should lead it, Pakistan on Thursday pledged to contribute $3 million to the Coronavirus Emergency Fund proposed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. India initially offered $10 million to help combat the fast-spreading COVID-19 pandemic in the region. While on March 15, Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza, had participated in the video conference, Imran Khan-led country skipped the meet of the trade officials discussion on April 9, citing that the SAARC Secretariat was not part of the video conference.
The Foreign Office of Pakistan in a statement said its perspective on the utilisation of fund was conveyed during a telephone conversation between Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood and SAARC Secretary-General Esala Ruwan Weerakoon. It also added that being a founding member, Pakistan considers SAARC an important platform for regional cooperation and 'remains committed'.
"While communicating Pakistan's decision to the SAARC Secretariat, it has been conveyed that all proceeds of the fund should be administered by the SAARC Secretariat and that the modalities for the fund's utilisation should be finalised through consultations with the Member States as per the SAARC Charter," it said.
Prime Minister Modi on March 15 in a video conference on forming a joint strategy to fight Covid-19 in the SAARC region, proposed the emergency fund 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, Bangladesh $1.5 million and Sri Lanka pledged $5 million to the fund. 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.
In a video conference skipped by Pakistan, trade officials of the SAARC countries broadly agreed to identify new ways to "sustain and expand" the intra-regional trade to offset the huge economic cost of the coronavirus pandemic. The officials also deliberated on creating a larger framework of trade facilitation and highlighted the need to enhance the quantum of intra SAARC trade as the pandemic is likely to have a considerable impact on the region, the Ministry of External Affairs said. The deliberations took place as a follow up to an India-initiated video conference of SAARC leaders on March 15.