Saudi Arabia, the current chair of the G20 bloc, has accepted a proposal by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hold an "extraordinary" virtual G20 Summit next week, eight months before it is meant to be held in the Saudi capital Riyadh. The decision to go virtual comes amid the fear of coronavirus pandemic that has swept across the world and killed nearly 9,000 people so far.
Moreover, given the extraordinary circumstances, world leaders have been engaging with each other online, from the European Union summits to SAARC. G20 is a club of the twenty major economies of the world including India, China, Japan, Australia, the US, several EU, African and South American countries.
In a statement, the Kingdom said, "The Saudi G20 Presidency is communicating with G20 countries to convene an extraordinary virtual G20 Leaders' Summit next week to advance a coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its human and economic implications."
Saudi Arabia said that the bloc leaders will "put forward a coordinated set of policies to protect people and safeguard the global economy". The bloc is expected to consult on a swift, coordinated response to worries that the global economy is heading towards a recession as the novel coronavirus wreaks havoc on financial markets and hits consumer spendings.
The announcement from the Kingdom comes a day after PM Modi discussed the need for coordination and drawing up of a strategy at the level of G20 with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in a telephonic conversation. The external affairs ministry said the PM Modi mentioned India’s recent initiative to organise a video conference among SAARC countries and pitched a similar idea for the G20 to Prince Salman.
Both leaders "agreed that a similar exercise at the level of G20 leaders, under the aegis of Saudi Arabia as the Chair of G20, would be useful at a global scale, both for discussing specific measures to address the challenges posed by the global outbreak of Covid-19 and also to instil confidence in the global populace," the statement said.
PM Modi had also pitched this idea to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week, who said he thinks it is a “commendable initiative”. A teleconference of SAARC countries was held on Sunday, March 15, where member nations pledged funds, technical expertise and knowledge sharing to combat coronavirus.
First detected in Wuhan in December 2019, novel coronavirus termed COVID-19 has affected nearly 148 countries in the world. Presently, there are over two lakh confirmed cases of COVID-19 which has led to the death of nearly 9,000 people. As there is no vaccine or specific antidote to COVID-19, countries have been grappling with all possible mechanisms to contain its scope. So far, China, South Korea, Italy, and Iran have witnessed the most number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus.