Not the right time to penalise WHO, feels India

Akhilesh Suman

File photo of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during a press conference (PTI Photo)

File photo of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar during a press conference (PTI Photo)

India feels the US decision to suspend funding for the World Health Organisation is ill-timed. The government is of the opinion that this is not the time to disturb the working of the apex world health body.

“Once the world addresses the crisis of COVID-19, the issue of WHO can be revisited. This is an inopportune moment to take such a serious step that can disrupt the working of WHO,” a senior MEA official told Rajya Sabha TV.

On Wednesday, US President Donald Trump announced that America would withhold funds to WHO. Further he sought an inquiry and restructuring of the organisation that according to US administration does not keep its biggest donor informed.

At the last G-20 summit that was held via video-conferencing , Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also suggested reforms in the WHO.

It was however felt that this was not the right time to seek changes that could destabilise WHO, which coordinates among different countries and updates them with valuable information.

Sources said that by the end of April, a virtual summit of BRICS nations will be organised to discuss issues related to coordination on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MEA is trying hard to use its diplomatic offices to coordinate and liaison with other governments to secure supply of equipment to India.

“The MEA has been at the forefront of the Government COVID-19 response in terms of ensuring vital medical supplies from other countries. This role extends from identifying suppliers, obtaining quotations, closely coordinating on the ground with suppliers, clearing agents, airlines and local authorities in ensuring that deliveries take place in a timely manner,” the sources said.

A large consignment of 6.5 lakh testing kits reached India from China on Thursday.

The Indian Embassy in Beijing and the Consulate in Guongzhou played a key role in expediting the supplies. Special efforts were made with local authorities for customs clearance till late in the evening on April 15. The Mission also helped get necessary clearance for airlines that transported the cargo as they were operating on non-scheduled flights.

“MEA is also providing all necessary assistance for further supplies of testing kits from South Korea that has taken the lead in combating the Corona virus.

“Firm quotations have been obtained from companies in UK, Malaysia, France, Canada and the US. We have also obtained leads from companies in Germany and Japan,” sources added.

India has also provided hydroxychloroquine and paracetamol to 55 countries, some of on grant and others on commercial basis.

In addition, MEA has also helped many countries in evacuating their citizens in India.

“Almost 35,000 foreign nationals have been evacuated from India and have been helped reach their home countries. It was an elaborate exercise coordinating with various concerned ministries like civil aviation, home affairs, police and embassies including different states,” MEA officials said.

In a humanitarian gesture, the Indian Government is also allowing 188 Pakistani nationals to return to their country in the midst of the pandemic. On Thursday, 41 of them had entered Pakistan via Wagah border.