Modi calls for SAARC emergency fund-THE HINDU-16-03-2020

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi convenes a meeting of SAARC leaders on the coronavirus pandemic over a video conference, on March 15, 2020.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation should create a fund to fight the threat of COVID-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Sunday. Modi extednded $10 million as India's contribution for the fund. In this spirit of collaboration, let me share a few ideas on what India can offer to this joint effort. I propose we create a COVID-19 Emergency Fund which could be based on voluntary contribution from all of us.

" India can start with an initial offer of 10 million US dollars for this fund," said Prime Minister Modi proposing the idea. The Indian leader said the Foreign Secretary of India Harsh Vardhan Shringla and his counterparts from other member countries of SAARC should meet and decide the plan ahead for the creation of the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund. The Pakistani representative pointed at the reports of COVID-19 from Jammu and Kashmir and said "all lockdown... must be lifted immediately". Kashmir has a large number of pilgrims and students who continue to remain in Iran as India has been carrying out medical tests before evacuating them.

Chalking out a plan to combat the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus with SAARC leaders.

Narendra Modi March 15, 2020

Proposal from the South Asian leaders came days after the World Health Organisation floated the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund with the help of corporate bodies, foundations and the UN Foundation. Addressing the impact of the threat that the pandemic poses on the region's economies, President Solih said that the economy of Maldives will be deeply affected as the tourist inflow from Italy, China and Europe - main source of tourists for the country - have dried up. Bhutan's PM Tshering also highlighted the economic impact that the virus is expected to have on the economies of South Asia and urged SAARC to help the member countries. The regional leaders explained how they have taken various measures to stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus through the population.

President Ashraf Ghani highlighted the vulnerability of Afghanistan as it shares a long border with Iran, one of the worst affected countries in the world. " We have an open border with Iran, one of the major centres and the flow can not be stopped," said President Ghani suggesting the SAARC member countries create a task force and a framework of tele medicine to deal with the threat. The Afghan leader said his government has shut schools and stopped public prayers and urged India to provide necessary satellite links so that students could carry out distant education from home.

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