By A Special Correspondent
First publised on 2020-03-16 10:31:50
India took the welcome initiative to hold a video conference of leaders of the Saarc nations to talk about the roadmap to contain the spread of Covid-19. Saarc nations are at high risk because their nationals are either employed in nations where the virus has rapidly spread or visit them for business purpose. Travel between Saarc nations is also common. Also, since the entire region is densely populated and the international borders are porous, if community transmission starts in one nation, it can rapidly spread to the others. Hence, a coordinated effort to combat the menace is both prudent and advisable.
Prime Minister Modi advised that all Saarc nations should set up a mechanism to use shared data, expertise and a fund to which India would make an initial contribution of $10 million. His advice was well appreciated by the other nations. Modi also suggested that the other nations could take advantage of India's technical expertise and rapid response teams of Indian doctors, specialists and testing devices could be used by other nations in Saarc if necessary. He also offered to help with emergency online training of medical staff and video conference of doctors to help in distance diagnosis.
But Pakistan, as is its wont, tried to poison the atmosphere by raising the Kashmir issue at the end of the interaction. Its intervention was rightly ignored by Prime Minister Modi and rebuffed by the other nations. It has become a habit with Pakistan to try and disrupt any initiative taken by India to bring neighbouring countries together. But in this case, it should have exercised restraint as the matter was of a pandemic that is spreading rapidly and needs to be controlled by all nations for their own benefit. But, as the saying goes, a dog's tail with not straighten even if it is kept in a pipe for several years.