Pakistan is all set to host the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation’s (SAARC) video conference on the coronavirus pandemic today.
According to a statement released by the Foreign Office on Wednesday, “Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Health Dr Zafar Mirza will lead Pakistan delegation. The meeting will be attended by ministers, senior officials and Secretary-General SAARC, Esala Ruwan Weerakon.”
The virtual meeting takes forward Pakistan’s earlier initiative to host the SAARC Health Ministers meeting, which has assumed urgency in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, the statement read.
According to the official statement, ”The conference will deliberate on ways to promote deeper cooperation to combat the crisis, including inter alia through strengthening disease surveillance, sharing best practices, building national capacities, coordinating research efforts and promoting regional and international linkages.”
High population densities and fragile health systems render South Asia, which is home to one-fifth of humanity, vulnerable to the pandemic. Closer coordination among regional countries through the use of all available institutional mechanisms, including the SAARC platform, remains important for combating the disease.
“The video conference is part of Pakistan’s efforts to foster greater cooperation at the regional level to effectively overcome the public health crisis, and mitigate its socio-economic impact,” the statement added. Pakistan has reported over 10,500 confirmed coronavirus cases with 222 fatalities.
According to Worldometer, India has reported the highest numbers of cases in the region, 21,797 with 681, reported deaths. Bangladesh has recorded, 3,772 confirmed cases and 120 deaths.
We welcome conference of ministers and senior officials from #SAARC (@SaarcSec) countries on April 23 to discuss a common strategy against #COVIDー19 proposed by #Pakistan (@pid_gov) @zfrmrza.#COVID #EarthDay2020#EarthDay pic.twitter.com/4Fnfemf9xL
— SAARC Youth Platform (@SAARC2030) April 22, 2020
Afghanistan has reported 1,176 cases and 40 deaths while Sri Lanka has recorded 330 cases and seven deaths. In Nepal 48, Bhutan seven and Maldives, 86 cases of the virus have been recorded. No deaths have been recorded in Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives so far.
India and Pakistan are important members of the regional organisation:
The escalation in tensions between India and Pakistan is one of the main reasons why SAARC is not prospering. On his part, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, in his message on the 35th SAARC Charter Day on March 2, expressed the hope that the hiatus created in SAARC’s continuous progression would be removed.
In his statement President CCI issued here today, he asserted that Pakistan has been playing a role for peace in the region and across the world and Prime Minister Imran Khan’s narrative of a peaceful solution to Afghan conflict has won laurels.
He also called for the promotion of strong cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan. He also urged the top leadership of either country to remove non-tariff barriers (NTBs) and other obstacles to trade.