Foreign ministers of Saarc countries today held their annual informal meeting virtually, where India reiterated its commitment to the regional group to help combat Covid-19.
Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, in his statement at the meeting, reiterated India's steadfast commitment to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) in building a connected, integrated, secure and prosperous South Asia.
He reiterated India's continued commitment to assisting countries in the Saarc region in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.
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.
The annual informal meeting of the Saarc Council of Ministers was chaired by Nepal and saw the participation of all Saarc member-countries.
The physical informal meetings of Saarc foreign ministers have been an annual feature since 1997 on the margins of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) sessions to exchange views on Saarc issues. But this time, it could not be held as there was no UNGA session due to the pandemic.
Today's meeting received a report from the Saarc secretary-general on the status of regional cooperation since the last informal meeting of the Saarc Council of Ministers in New York on September 26 last year.
The meeting reviewed regional efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.
The participants appreciated the leadership of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in convening a video conference of Saarc leaders on March 15 to take collaborative measures towards combating the pandemic across the region. This included the creation of common Covid-19 Emergency Fund, to which all countries have pledged voluntary contributions.
Jaishankar 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.
He also informed that under India's contribution to the emergency fund, supply of essential drugs, medical consumables, Covid-19 protection and testing kits, and other equipment, amounting USD 2.3 million, were made available to Saarc countries.