For the first time Pakistan convenes SAARC Health Ministers meet

Akhilesh Suman

File Photo: SAARC logo

File Photo: SAARC logo

Maintaining the spirit of cooperation on all global matters relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, India on Thursday took part in the Pakistan-led virtual meeting of SAARC Health Ministers.

The meeting was chaired by Dr Zafar Mirza, special assistant to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on health matters. The Indian side was led by Rajiv Garg, Director General of Health Services. All members including SAARC Secretary-General Esala Ruwan Weerakoon took part in the Conference.

“We always want cooperation on COVID-19, and it is good that other members are also taking a keen interest. We have already given $10 million for a temporary emergency fund on COVID-19. We also sent rapid medical teams to Maldives and Kuwait, besides sending medicines to many SAARC nations,” an MEA official said.

The latest event comes weeks after India initiated a video conference of senior health professionals on March 26. The exercise which was aimed at promoting greater regional cooperation against COVID-19 was acknowledged to have been productive and outcome-oriented.

But even before this, Prime Minister Narendra Modi initiated the SAARC process against COVID-19, with the convening of a virtual SAARC summit on March 15.

The issues that were discussed on Thursday’s meet included real-time sharing of information and clinical data, capacity building and training of medical and paramedical staff, supply of medicines and medical equipment, research coordination and enhancing cooperation with front line international organizations including the World Health Organisation.

Given the prevailing uncertainty and also a lack of knowledge about the pandemic, there was consensus among member nations about the need to take the crisis seriously and, without hesitation or reluctance, share knowledge about it.

India’s representative Rajiv Garg assured other members of extending all possible help in the situation.

India has developed an electronic platform, the ‘SAARC COVID19 Information Exchange Platform (COINEX)’ for use by all SAARC countries.

As the next major step, the platform will be launched to promote exchange of specialised information and tools on COVID-19 among designated health professionals in the region.

COINEX will also facilitate various online training resources and e-learning modules.
The virtual meeting was an occasion for India to reaffirm its strong commitment towards am increased sharing of knowledge, expertise and best practices in the global fight against COVID-19.