While officials from India’s health ministry joined those from other South Asian countries in the video conference being organised by Beijing, Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla participated in the US-led telephone conference earlier today.
The flurry of meetings follows death toll crossing 10,000, with 160 counties across the world have reported nearly 250,000 cases. India has reported 206 confirmed cases, with four deaths and 14 recoveries.
A statement by the Indian foreign ministry said the teleconference call, initiated by the US, included senior representatives from Australia, the Republic of Korea, Vietnam, New Zealand, and Japan.
“The participants shared their assessments of the current situation with respect to COVID-19, and discussed ways to synergize their efforts to counter its spread,” the statement said, adding Shringla gave an overview of “the steps taken by India both nationally and in the region.”
Shringla “conveyed India’s desire to regularly share its perspectives with partners in the region and to work together with others to counter this challenge. The participants are expected to continue the conference call on a weekly basis, covering issues like cooperation on vaccine development, challenges of stranded citizens, assistance to countries in need and mitigating the impact on the global economy,” the statement added.
The Beijing-initiated conference was announced on Twitter by China’s ambassador to India, Sun Weidong on Friday morning.
“China will hold a video conference with more than 10 countries in the Eurasian [region] and South Asia on prevention & control of #Covid-19 today. China will support & assist its friendly neighbours in the spirit of solidarity amid adversity,” Sun had said in the Twitter post.
In another post, China’s state-run Global Times newspaper had said the “Foreign ministers of #China, #Japan and #SouthKorea on Friday agreed during a special video conference to cooperate on drug and vaccine development under joint efforts to contain the #COVID19 pandemic.”
According to people familiar with the matter, officials of India’s health ministry joined representatives from about 18 countries in the Eurasia and South Asia region via video link to deliberate on prevention and control of the pandemic. The participants exchanged views on best practices and experiences of their countries in controlling the spread of Covid-19 and discussed the strategy to tackle the damage caused by the pandemic, one of the officials cited above said.
When asked whether India could learn and adopt practices that China had implemented to check the outbreak after it first surfaced in Wuhan in December, additional secretary Dammu Ravi, the Indian foreign ministry’s point-person for Covid-19-related matters on Thursday had said, “We should always be studying the best practices around the world and see if they have been helpful in any country. We should also see to what extent we can introduce (them) in our situation.”
“Each region or a country has its own challenges but it’s important to study them and to see to what extent they are practically implementable in our country,” he added.
The Chinese initiative followed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call on Sunday which brought together the leaders of all eight member states of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) via video link.
India has announced setting up of a $10-million Covid-19 emergency fund which officials, on Thursday, said had been operationalised. New Delhi has also extended assistance to Bhutan and the Maldives in the past few weeks and received requests for aid worth more than $1 million dollars and it has dispatched supplies to the Maldives and Bhutan, Indian foreign ministry Raveesh Kumar said.
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