PM Narendra Modi
PM Narendra Modi

New Delhi: PM Modi on Sunday proposed the creation of a COVID-19 emergency fund and pledged a starting contribution of $ 10 million.

Announcing the regional initiative at a video conference with SAARC leaders, Modi said that the emergency fund could be based on “voluntary contributions from all of us.”

Steering and moderating the 90-minute video conference, he reminded the world of his ‘Neighbourhood First policy,’ underscoring the need for “coming together, not growing apart, collaboration, not confusion, preparation, not panic.”’

He said, “We do not yet know what shape the pandemic will take. We can respond best by coming together.”

Modi took the initiative even as cases of coronavirus in the region has touched 150. He said that the fund could be used by any of the SAARC members to meet the cost of immediate action. Modi further suggested using existing facilities such as the SAARC Disaster Management Centre to pool the best practices.

As always, the Prime Minister was full of ideas and assured leaders from the neighbouring countries that India is assembling a rapid response team of doctors and specialists, testing kits and other equipment. He said that these will “be on standby and at your disposal when required.”

 He also offered that India can arrange online training capsules for emergency response teams based on models being used in India.

Mr Modi also suggested further brainstorming by experts on the long-term economic consequences of COVID-19 and how best to insulate internal trade and local value chains from its impact

 The President of Afghanistan, Mr Ashraf Ghani who was the first to speak after PM Modi, said that the greatest vulnerability of Afghanistan is an open border with Iran.

Dr Zafar Mirza, who represented the Prime Minister of Pakistan, said that no nation and no region in the world can afford to be unresponsive to COVID 19, least of all SAARC which is home to one-fifth of humanity.

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