Extraordinary times require extraordinary solutions, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said during a video conference on Monday with 130 heads of Indian missions abroad, referring to India’s 21-day nationwide lockdown to fight coronavirus as the world’s largest quarantine measure.
In the nearly 75-minute interaction, Modi asked the missions to pay close attention to the evolving international political and economic situation as well as to identify best practices and scientific breakthroughs to contain the pandemic.
The prime minister emphasised that the unity and alertness of all Indians would help safeguard the nation’s future, adding Indian officials in missions abroad may well be far from home, but they remain full participants in the country’s fight against the pandemic.
The focus of the interaction with the Indian mission in China was on procurement of medical devices from the country while highlight of the exchanges with the Indian envoy in the US revolved around assistance being provided by the Trump administration to New Delhi on laboratory tests for the COVID-19 infection, sources said.
The Indian envoys in South Korea and Germany explained to the prime minister on how the two countries have managed to significantly contain the infection by using technology and series of other measures.
Heads of mission in Tehran, Rome, Berlin, Kathmandu, Abu Dhabi and Kabul also offered their perspectives to the prime minister on the pandemic and the overall situation in their countries of posting.
The prime minister said India had taken “unprecedented” and early steps from mid-January to reduce the risk of importing the coronavirus infection and prevent a large outbreak.
He said it included the world’s largest quarantine and lock-down, according to the ministry of external affairs.
“Prime Minister noted that extraordinary times require extraordinary solutions, which was why even in this globalized era, most of the world had quarantined itself,” it said in a release.
PM Modi termed the announcement of lockdown by governments in various countries as an unavoidable step to fight the pandemic, but added that the closure of the globalised system has had an extensive and far-reaching impact upon the international transport system, financial markets and the global economy.
The prime minister complimented the heads of mission for their efforts to evacuate Indians stranded in some of the epicentres of the crisis and exhorted them to take five specific steps including paying close attention to the evolving international political and economic situation and ensuring their own health and safety as well as of their teams and families.
PM Modi also asked the heads of mission to attend to Indians stranded abroad due to international travel restrictions and address issues arising out of from their unplanned stay abroad with their host governments.
The Indian Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates flagged issues of concern to the 34 lakh-strong Indian community in the Gulf nation as well as of those Indians stuck in transit.
In response to a request to expedite clearance for aircraft from the UAE to pick up critical supplies of fresh vegetables and fruits from India, Modi informed him that the clearance has already been given.
The prime minister also asked the missions to stay alert and identify best practices, innovations, scientific breakthroughs to deal with COVID 10 and help procurement of medical equipment for India’s fight against the pandemic.
“He also advised Heads of Mission to suitably publicize the newly-established PM-CARES Fund to mobilize donations from abroad,” the MEA said.
As the crisis also impacts the economy, Modi advised heads of mission to also focus on ensuring that commerce in essential supplies, logistics chains, remittances are unaffected.
The sources said the prime minister’s video conference was an exercise in coordinating and dovetailing India’s domestic efforts with those being practised worldwide and to also incorporate lessons learned in this regard.
“Heads of Mission outlined their efforts to help Indians stranded abroad, in particular, students and workers. They also reported efforts to identify medicine, medical devices, technologies, research and other measures which might help in India’s own national effort to fight this pandemic,” the MEA said.
They also explained about lessons learned in other countries, and their best practices, in the fight against COVID-19.
“In our neighbourhood, heads of missions underlined measures to assist the national responses of those countries, using the special fund created at India’s initiative for SAARC countries to combat COVID-19,” the MEA said.
It said the HoMs also expressed gratitude for the guidance and inspiration from the prime minister for their work.