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PM To Speak In SAARC Video Conference

The SAARC video conference proposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the joint strategy to fight the coronavirus outbreak is going to take place on Sunday 5:00 PM Indian time.

Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli will himself take part in the video conference at 5:15 PM Nepali time, said Dr. Rajan Bhattarai, Foreign Affairs Advisor to the PM.

The conference, which will include leaders of seven countries including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the special adviser.

The participation of PM Oli in the talk, despite his recent kidney transplant and ongoing medical treatment, has shown Nepal’s priority to the regional mechanism and people’s safety.
Nepal is the current chair of the SAARC, group of eight south Asian countries, which has been a victim of bilateral conflict between India and Pakistan and is almost moribund as some members of the regional association started showing active participation in another regional mechanism called BIMSTEC that includes Myanmar and Thailand and excludes Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Indian PM Modi on Friday proposed a joint strategy of the SAARC countries to fight coronavirus (COVID 19) in the region and expressed his desire to organise a video conference to discuss ways to keep people safe from the pandemic.

In his tweet, he also said that together the leaders of the region could set an example to the world and contribute to a healthier planet.
His impromptu call was well received by the leaders of the SAARC member countries and secretariat of the regional body who immediately came forward to welcome the move and take part in it.

PM Oli had instantly welcomed the proposal and expressed Nepal’s readiness to work closely with the SAARC countries in containing the coronavirus and keep people safe.

Presidents of the Maldives and Sri Lanka Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Gotabaya Rajapaksha respectively and Prime Minister of Bhutan Lotay Tshering also expressed their solidarity with the proposal in the afternoon on Friday while Bangladesh and Pakistan also joined the team in the evening.
The pandemic is likely to open the diplomatic channel between India and Pakistan which was long idle, effectively after 2016 Uri strikes.

Pakistani PM Imran Khan has appointed Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on health Dr. Zafar Mirza to the conference.
“The threat of COVID-19 requires coordinated efforts at global and regional level. We have communicated that SAPM on Health will be available to participate in the video conference of SAARC member countries on the issue,” tweeted Spokesperson of Pakistani Foreign Ministry Aisha Farooqui on Friday evening.

The pandemic has claimed two lives in India. A 68-year-old woman from Delhi died due to COVID-19 on Saturday. Earlier, a 76-year-old man had died on 29 February.

The number of infected with the virus in India reached 83 by Saturday evening.

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