Prime Minister Narendra Modi made an offer regarding a virtual meet of the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) leaders. The decision was taken in light of increasing COVID-19 cases in the region. All the SAARC countries have reported COVID-19 cases with 2 Death cases reported in India.
The announcement regarding the same was made through a tweet by External Affairs Minister’s spokesperson Raveesh Kumar with a goal of ‘coming together for the common good.’ The conference will include leaders of seven countries – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the special Health adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister, Dr. Zafar Mirza. The conference comes ahead of a similar conference by G-7 countries. The meet is expected to take place at 5.pm on 15 March.
Putting aside differences, Pakistan made a statement that the threat of COVID-19 requires coordinated efforts at global and regional levels. On asking whether the presence of an advisor rather than Prime Minister will be acquiescent for the meet, India replied with no hesitations that it is no issue, and the aim of the conference is to decide a strong strategy to deal with the treacherous threats of coronavirus.
The meet is not only important to tackle and resolve the Health issues posed by a coronavirus, but at the same time, it can act as a catalyst to spur the spirit of cooperation among the SAARC nations, which was dead a long ago. The group, which was born in 1985, Dhaka, shows little progress regarding issues like regional integration and connectivity, mainly due to cold relations between India and Pakistan.
The last SAARC summit was held in 2016 in Pakistan, which was boycotted by India, Afghanistan, Bhutan, and Bangladesh, citing Pakistan’s support for terrorism is not conducive and in line with its agenda of regional fraternity.
It would be interesting to see how SAARC would work in the future when India is looking forward to new groups like BIMSTEC. At the same time, can new emerging issues like Climate change, pandemics like coronavirus, etc., bring regional rivals like India and Pakistan on the same platform?