Saarc FMs for joint efforts to overcome Covid-19 impacts

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Desk report, Sept 25: Saarc Foreign Ministers on Thursday emphasised the need to work collectively to overcome the adverse impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in the region.

They appreciated the initiative of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in convening the Saarc Leaders’ videoconference on Covid-19 in March this year.

The Saarc Foreign Ministers in an informal meeting of the Saarc Council of Ministers held virtually also reviewed the subsequent regional initiatives undertaken to fight against the pandemic.

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen joined it from Dhaka.

Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, chaired the Informal meeting, attended by the Ministers of Foreign/External Affairs of all the Member States of Saarc, according to the Saarc Secretariat.

The chair underscored the importance of collective efforts for strengthening regional cooperation to cope with the emerging challenges posed by the global pandemic.

In this context, he emphasised the need to reinvigorate the Saarc process to make it more focused and result-oriented in meeting the hopes and aspirations of the people of South Asia.

In their country statements, the Ministers of Foreign/External Affairs apprised the Council about the status of implementation of Saarc decisions as well as initiatives taken at the national level to fight the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, Secretary General of Saarc, also addressed the informal meeting.

In his address, the Secretary General presented a progress report on regional cooperation since the last informal meeting of the Saarc Council of Ministers.

Referring to the Saarc Charter, he stated that Saarc holds the potential to promote effective regional cooperation in every sphere of development, including for addressing the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Indian External Affairs (MEA) Minister Dr S Jaishankar called upon Saarc member states to collectively resolve to defeat the scourge of terrorism, including the forces that nurture, support and encourage an environment of terror and conflict.

He said these impede the objective of Saarc to realise its full potential for collective collaboration and prosperity across South Asia.

Dr Jaishankar reiterated India’s steadfast commitment to Saarc in building a connected, integrated, secure and prosperous South Asia, according to MEA.

He highlighted a slew of measures taken by India in the follow-up to the Saarc leaders videoconference, including virtually convening health professionals and trade officials meetings, creating a ‘Covid-19 Information Exchange Platform (COINEX), foreign currency swap support and activation of Saarc Food Bank mechanism.

Dr Jaishankar informed that under India’s contribution to Saarc Covid-19 Emergency Fund, supply of essential drugs, medical consumables, Covid protection and testing kits, and other equipment, amounting US$ 2.3 million, were made available to countries in the Saarc   region.

He reiterated India’s continued commitment to assisting countries in the Saarc region in combating Covid-19 pandemic.

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