File Photo: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi Photograph:( Reuters )
The minister reiterated Pakistan's willingness to host a SAARC health ministers' meeting and suggested that due to the prevailing global health emergency a video conference could be organised
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday discussed the coronavirus outbreak in the region with SAARC Secretary General Esala Ruwan Weerakoon and expressed willingness to host a meeting of the health ministers to tackle the health emergency.
In a telephone conversation, Qureshi and Weerakoon discussed the challenges being faced by South Asian states in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, the Foreign Office said.
"The need for joint efforts to deal with the situation was emphasised by both sides," according to the FO.
Qureshi said Pakistan, being a founding member, was committed to the SAARC process and considered it an important platform for regional cooperation.
The minister reiterated Pakistan's willingness to host a SAARC health ministers' meeting and suggested that due to the prevailing global health emergency a video conference could be organised. The SAARC secretary general appreciated Pakistan's proposal.
The foreign minister said the proposed SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund should be under the supervision of the body's secretary general and that modalities for the fund's utilisation be finalised through consultation among member-states.
Qureshi highlighted Prime Minister Imran Khan's call for debt restructuring of developing countries to help them route resources towards saving human lives in view of the economic impact of COVID-19.
Qureshi reiterated Pakistan's willingness to work closely with the SAARC secretariat and SAARC member states to realise the common goal of accelerating economic growth and promoting the welfare of the people of South Asia.
Congratulating Weerakoon on assuming responsibilities as the 14th secretary general of SAARC, the foreign minister assured him of Pakistan's full support and expressed the hope that under his stewardship, the SAARC process would be able to move forward.
In a video conference on forming a joint strategy to fight COVID-19 in the SAARC region, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 15 proposed the emergency fund with an initial offer of USD 10 million from India and asserted that the best way to deal with the coronavirus pandemic was by coming together, and not growing apart.
Subsequently, Nepal and Afghanistan pledged USD 1 million each, Maldives committed USD 200,000, Bhutan USD 100,000 and Bangladesh pledged USD 1.5 million to the fund. Sri Lanka on Monday pledged to contribute USD 5 million to the fund.
Pakistan is now the only country left to declare its contribution to the fund.