The United States is pleased to see the increasing cooperation between SAARC nations in the battle against the deadly Coronavirus Pandemic which has taken the world hostage, Senior US Diplomat Alice Wells tweeted on Friday while noting India's leadership in proposing a COVID-19 relief fund and a joint action against the pandemic followed by Pakistan led video conference on April 23.
#COVID19 knows no borders & combatting it will require regional cooperation among South Asian neighbors. Pleased to see increasing #SAARC cooperation, including the #India-proposed March 15 heads of state call & the #Pakistan-led April 23 videoconference w/ health officials. AGW— State_SCA (@State_SCA) April 24, 2020
The US diplomat also lauded India's efforts to protect healthcare workers who are at the forefront of the battle of the COVID-19 crisis. India had announced Rs 50 lakhs ex gratia for health workers dying at the line of duty while battling COVID-19.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) comprises of India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, the Maldives, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
On Thursday, Pakistan called a meeting of SAARC countries on COVID-19 claiming it to be a ministerial conference, but later it turned out that only official-level dignitaries participated at the forum.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 15 via video conferencing called for a joint effort and proposed a SAARC Covid-19 fund for combating the deadly virus. The SAARC countries praised the initiative led by India as it contributed USD 10 million to the fund. Responding to PM Modi's clarion call, Sri Lanka pledged to contribute USD 5 million. While Bangladesh pledged to contribute USD 1.5 million, Afghanistan and Maldives pledged USD 1.2 million.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan did not attend the SAARC meet proposed by PM Modi and sending Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza to attend the meet. Pakistan also skipped the meet of the trade officials discussion on April 9 citing that the SAARC Secretariat was not part of the video conference. After skipping the crucial meet chaired by India stating that SAARC Secretariat should lead it, Pakistan on Thursday pledged to contribute $3 million.