Sep 24: The External Affairs Minister of the Republic of India, Dr. S. Jaishankar, participated in the annual Informal Meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers on 24th September 2020. The meeting, chaired by Nepal, was held in virtual mode and saw participation of all SAARC member states.
Informal meetings, held since 1997, take advantage of the opportunity provided by the presence of the Foreign Ministers at UNGA sessions to exchange views on SAARC issues.
The meeting received a report from the Secretary-General on the status of regional cooperation since the last informal meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers in New York on 26th September 2019.
The meeting reviewed regional efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, participants appreciated the leadership of the Hon’ble Prime Minister of India in convening a video conference of SAARC Leaders on 15th March 2020 to take collaborative measures towards combating the pandemic across the region. This included the creation of SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund, to which all countries have pledged voluntary contributions.
Dr. Jaishankar, in his statement, reiterated India’s steadfast commitment to SAARC in building a connected, integrated, secure and prosperous South Asia. He highlighted a slew of measures taken by India in the follow-up to the SAARC Leaders video conference, including virtually convening health professionals and trade officials meetings, creating a ‘COVID-19 Information Exchange Platform (COINEX), foreign currency swap support and activation of SAARC Food Bank mechanism. Dr. Jaishankar informed that under India’s contribution to SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund, supply of essential drugs, medical consumables, COVID protection and testing kits, and other equipment, amounting USD 2.3 million, were made available to countries in the SAARC region. He reiterated India’s continued commitment to assisting countries in the SAARC region in combating COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Jaishankar called upon SAARC member states to collectively resolve to defeat the scourge of terrorism, including the forces that nurture, support and encourage an environment of terror and conflict, which impede the objective of SAARC to realize its full potential for collective collaboration and prosperity across South Asia.