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PM bats for joint SAARC strategy to fight coronavirus, gets prompt support from neighbours

PM bats for joint SAARC strategy to fight coronavirus, gets prompt support from neighbours

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday proposed formulation of a joint strategy by SAARC nations to fight coronavirus, with member states such as Nepal and Sri Lanka promptly hailing the idea of unitedly taking on the pandemic.

Calling on SAARC member states to set an example for the world, Modi proposed a video conference of leaders of the countries to chalk out a strong strategy to fight coronavirus.

His appeal got a prompt response from Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and Bhutanese premier Lotay Tshering, who welcomed the proposal.

Together, we can set an example to the world and contribute to a healthier planet, Prime Minister Modi said.

"I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight coronavirus. We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy," Modi said.

"Our planet is battling the COVID-19 Novel Coronavirus. At various levels, governments and people are trying their best to combat it," he said on Twitter.

South Asia, which is home to a significant number of the global population, should leave no stone unturned to ensure that the people are healthy, he said.

Welcoming the proposal, Rajapaksa said Sri Lanka was ready to join the discussion, share its learning and best practices as well as to learn from other SAARC members.

"Thank you for the great initiative Narendra Modi -- Lanka is ready to join the discussion and share our learnings and best practices and to learn from other SAARC members. Let's unite in solidarity during these trying times and keep our citizens safe," Rajapaksa said in a tweet.

Nepalese Prime Minister Oli also welcomed the proposal and said his government was ready to work closely with SAARC member states to protect people from this deadly disease.

"I welcome the idea advanced by Prime Minister Modiji for chalking out a strong strategy by the leadership of the SAARC nations to fight coronavirus. My government is ready to work closely with SAARC member states to protect our citizens from this deadly disease," Oli tweeted.

Maldivian PM Solih said his country welcomed the proposal and would fully support such a regional effort.

"Thank you PM Narendra Modi for taking the initiative on this important endeavour. COVID-19 requires collective effort to defeat it. The Maldives welcomes this proposal and would fully support such a regional effort," he said.

The Bhutanese prime minister said, "This is what we call leadership. As members of this region, we must come together in such times."

"Smaller economies are hit harder, so we must coordinate. With your leadership, I have no doubt we will see immediate and impactful outcome. Looking forward to the video conference," he said.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Wednesday that the coronavirus outbreak could be characterised as pandemic. The number of novel coronavirus cases globally stood at 1,33,970, with 4,958 deaths, across 120 countries and territories.

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a regional intergovernmental organization that comprises Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

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