Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 50, 18 March 2020

The Missing Collective: South Asia's regional attempt to combat Coronavirus through the SAARC
Sukanya Bali

More Ideas, Less Action

Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan came together after six years on the SAARC platform on 15 March, for a video conference. The video conference was attended by President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh, Prime Minister Lotay Tshering of Bhutan, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of Maldives, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli of Nepal, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa of Sri Lanka, Zafar Mirza, a special assistant to Prime Minister Imran Khan from Pakistan.

The total number of cases registered in SAARC, 443 and counting. The first hit in was seen in Nepal on 24 January followed by the spread across the South Asian countries. 

The challenge is to operationalize the ideas

The first-ever video conference initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India. This initiative aimed at bringing all the regional leaders on the same platform to address the social, economic impact of the pandemic. It also aims at bringing solidarity, a corporate bonding, and inclusivity of ideas among neighbours. 

Several concerns were raised during this video conference. The Maldives President Solih and Bhutan Prime Minister Tshering are worried on the economic implication, as per there economy is highly dependent on the tourist sector. 

During the conference, Narendra Modi said, "We all agree on evolving a common strategy to handle such a challenge, we will also find a cooperative solution. We will share our knowledge for the best practices, capacity and possible resource for all." He also proposed funds to fight COVID-19, at a regional level by contributing $10 million and also offered for an online training facility to scale up the capabilities of SAARC countries. Later, he also suggested leaders of all the SAARC countries decide the plan for the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund.

Additionally, Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina approached with an idea "to create an institute to prevent and fight against any public health threat in the South Asian region in the future." The Indian government has also proposed, sooner on a meet with G20 leaders, to beat COVID-19.

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