SAARC video conference on COVID-19 scheduled for Sunday

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (L) is conferred the Order of the Distinguished Rule of Izzuddin by Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on June 8, 2019. (Photo/President's Office)

The leaders of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations are scheduled to sit down for a video conference aimed at coordinating the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic on Sunday.

The invitation for the video conference was extended by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday. He pressed on the need for all SAARC nations to come up with a strong strategy to fight the deadly virus.

“Together, we can set an example to the world, and contribute to a healthier planet,” said Modi.

Government spokesperson, Mabrook Azeez, during a press conference on Friday night, announced that Maldives would be represented at the video conference by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Modi’s invitation has been accepted by all SAARC nations, including Pakistan.

Responding to the offer, Pakistani foreign office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui acknowledged that the threat of COVID-19 required coordinated efforts at global and regional level.

“We have communicated that SAPM on Health [Dr Zafar Mirza] will be available to participate in the video conference of SAARC member countries on the issue,” she said.

Pakistan’s response is particularly significant since SAARC has not had a summit since 2016 due to the deterioration of ties between India and Pakistan.

Among South East Asian countries, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit India hardest, with 75 confirmed cases, three recoveries and one death. Pakistan has confirmed 20 cases, Maldives has confirmed 10, Afghanistan five, Bangladesh three, and Nepal and Bhutan one each.