Pakistan Prefers To Discuss Kashmir Instead Of Coronavirus Pandemic During SAARC Video-Conference

Pakistan representative in the SAARC video conference – Dr Zafar Mirza instead of focussing on the coronavirus pandemic preferred to discuss the Kashmir issue and thus infuriating New Delhi, according to experts.

video conference of SAARC countries' leaders is underway while discussing a common strategy against the novel coronavirus. SCREENGRAB

Mirza urged Indian Prime Minister to lift Kashmir’s lockdown “in view of health emergency” as COVID-19. “It is a matter of concern that COVID-19 has been reported from Jammu and Kashmir and in view of the health emergency, it is imperative that all lockdown in the territory must be lifted immediately,” Dr Mirza was quoted as saying during a video conference of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

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While other countries were represented by their heads of governments, Pakistan has deputed Dr Mirza to participate in the conference. During the meeting, Mirza proposed that Saarc secretariat be mandated to establish a working group of respective national authorities for information and data exchange as well as coordination for responses in real-time.

He also suggested the member countries to learn from and disseminate the experience of Saarc observer states, particularly China that is effectively addressing the challenge and can share valuable insights. The idea for a video conference came from the Indian PM Narendra Modi.

India’s PM Narendra Modi in the Saarc video conference said ‘prepare, but don’t panic’ has been India’s guiding mantra in dealing with the virus outbreak. “Our region has reported less than 150 coronavirus cases, but we need to remain vigilant,” said PM Modi.

​”Step-by-step approach helped avoid panic, made special efforts to reach out to vulnerable groups,” the PM further said. “We started screening people entering India from mid-January itself, while gradually increasing restrictions on travel,” said Modi. Modi proposed to the SAARC leaders of creating a Covid-19 emergency fund, which could be based on voluntary contributions from all the SAARC countries.

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Modi also said, “We will set up a disease surveillance portal to better trace possible virus carriers and can share disease surveillance software with SAARC. We are assembling Rapid Response Team of doctors, specialists in India, along with testing kits, they will be ready for deployment.”