NEW DELHI :
Contributions to a fund put together by South Asian countries to combat the challenge posed by the Covid-19 pandemic to one of the most underdeveloped regions of the world seems to take taking off, with almost all nations pledging money to the pool.
The only notable holdout is Pakistan which is yet to announce any contribution to the fund first proposed by India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, during a video conference meet on 15 March. Modi had then announced an initial amount of $10 million to the fund to which contributions were to be made on a voluntary basis by member countries.
The SAARC video conference meet was attended by the heads of government of all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation countries with the exception of Pakistan, which was represented by Zafar Mirza, special adviser to Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. Apart from Modi, other heads of government who joined the conference included Bhutanese Prime Minister Lotay Tshering, Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepalese Prime Minister Oli and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani.
On Monday, Shivanthi Ranasinghe, Deputy Director - International Relations & Foreign Media, in Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s office told Mint that the Colombo government was earmarking $5 million for the SAARC Corona Emergency Fund.
“Just spoke to FM @DCRGunawardena of #SriLanka. Reviewed follow-up to the #SAARC-COVID Summit decisions. As good neighbours, we work closely to address the #COVID disruptions. Look forward to keeping in touch," Foreign minister S. Jaishankar tweeted on Monday.
Bangladesh has promised $1.5 million to the kitty. The announcement was made by foreign minister A.K. Abdul Momen.
Prime Minister Modi had last week taken to Twitter to thank the governments of Maldives, Nepal and Bhutan for their contributions to the SAARC fund.
“Gratitude to @PMBhutan Dr Lotay Tshering for his decision to contribute $100,000 to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund on behalf of the Bhutanese government. It is wonderful to see SAARC leaders taking initiatives that are adding strength to the collective fight against Coronavirus," Modi had said in a post on Friday.
“Deeply appreciate PM @kpsharmaoli’s announcement of contribution of NPR 10 crores (approximately $ 1 million) to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund. It reflects Oli Ji’s commitment and support to the collective fight of SAARC countries against the pandemic," Modi said in a second post on Friday.
“Deeply appreciate contribution of USD 200,000 by Government of Maldives to the COVID-19 Emergency Fund. It strengthens our resolve in this collective fight against the pandemic. @ibusolih," Modi added in another post on Saturday. Afghanistan had last week pledged $1 million to the SAARC Corona fund, according to a tweet by Afghanistan’s charge d’affaires Tahir Qadiry in New Delhi. “Pakistan was obliged to participate in the SAARC video conference meet initiated at India’s instance or it would have invited criticism," said former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal.
Not contributing to the SAARC Corona Emergency Fund is a way of showing “resistance to India’s initiative," he said.