Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday proposed creating a COVID-19 emergency fund for SAARC countries saying they can respond best only by coming together, not growing apart.
"It's clear that we have to work together. We can respond best by coming together not growing apart; collaboration not confusion; preparation not panic," he said.
Modi said the emergency fund could be based on voluntary contributions from all of them and India can start with an initial offer of US$10 million for this fund.
Prime Minister Modi said this while sharing his thoughts on coronavirus situation in Saarc countries and beyond.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina joined the videoconference from Dhaka with other Saarc member countries to chalk out a strong common strategy to fight COVID-19 in the region.
The videoconference began at 5:30pm (Bangladesh time).
Indian High Commission in Dhaka arranged screening of live videoconference of Saarc leaders.
The Indian Prime Minister said they fully recognise that they are still in an unknown situation.
"We cannot predict with certainty how the situation will unfold despite our best efforts. You must also be facing similar concerns. This is why it would be most valuable for all of us to share our perspectives," he said mentioning that they are facing a serious challenge.
Modi laid emphasis on staying vigilant saying they must succeed together as the countries are still in an unknown situation.
"So far, our region has listed fewer than 150 cases. But we need to remain vigilant," he said briefly sharing India’s experience of combating the spread of this virus so far as they prepare to face this challenge.
“Prepare, but don’t panic” has been our guiding mantra," he said.
Modi said they started screening entry into India from mid-January itself, while also gradually increasing restrictions on travel.
The step-by-step approach has helped avoid panic, Modi said adding, "We have made special efforts to reach out to vulnerable groups."
The Indian Prime Minister said they have worked to quickly ramp up capacity in their system including through training their medical staff across the country.
"We also responded to the call of our people abroad. We evacuated nearly 1,400 Indians from different countries. We also similarly helped some of the citizens of our neighborhood countries," Modi said.