Modi calls on SAARC to fight coronavirus

The call comes amid detection of coronavirus cases after the population of the SAARC member-states.

March 13, 2020 02:37 pm | Updated March 17, 2020 07:58 am IST - NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. File

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday called on the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation (SAARC) to fight the coronavirus threat jointly. This came minutes after India evacuated 44 citizens who from the Iranian city of Qom after the cancellation of flights due to coronavirus outbreak in that country.

“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. Together, we can set an example to the world and contribute to a healthier planet,” said Mr. Modi in a social media message.

The call comes amid detection of coronavirus cases after the population of the SAARC member-states. India has been coordinating bilaterally with countries like Italy and Iran for evacuation but this is the first time that the Indian leadership has called for a joint action by SAARC, which has been stuck because of India-Pakistan hostilities.

On Thursday, the official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) informed about requests for medical items from Iran, Italy, Bangladesh, and Maldives.

Thursday also saw External Affairs Minister S.Jaishankar assuring Parliament that limited number of commercial flights would be allowed to fly back the Indians stranded in Qom, Tehran and other Iranian cities.

Mr. Jaishankar on Friday announced the arrival of the latest batch of evacuees in Mumbai in an Iran Air flight. “Second batch of 44 Indian pilgrims has arrived today from Iran. Our efforts to bring back the others continue,” he said.

The first batch consisting of 58 nationals was brought back in a C-17 military transport aircrft on Tuesday.

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