Tribune News Service
New Delhi, February 18
India on Thursday mooted an ambitious regional cooperation plan for seamless movement of doctors, nurses and air ambulances between countries of the SAARC and Indian Ocean Region during medical emergencies noting that greater integration was critical to making the 21st century the century of Asia.
Addressing a workshop on “Covid-19 management, experience and the way forward” with 10 neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked experts to consider a special visa scheme for doctors and nurses so that they could travel quickly within the region during health emergencies on the request of the receiving country. The Pakistan representative at the meeting is learnt to have supported India’s stand on collaboration and stated “hyper-nationalist mentality won’t help”. Pakistan said it would be part of any regional cooperation on the issue.
The PM earlier posed several searching questions to the delegates asking them if the civil aviation ministries of the 10 countries could coordinate a regional air ambulance agreement for medical contingencies and a regional platform for collating, compiling and studying data about the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines. “Can we similarly create a regional network for promoting technology-assisted epidemiology for preventing future pandemics?” the PM asked the delegates of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and India.
Modi hailed the Asian region’s collaborative response to the pandemic, recalling the March 2020 meeting of SAARC leaders where a Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund was established with India’s initial contribution of $10 million.
“If the 21st century is to be the Asian century, it cannot be without greater integration among the countries of South Asia and the Indian Ocean island countries. The spirit of regional solidarity you have shown during the pandemic has proven that such integration is possible… Many experts had voiced special concerns about the densely populated Asian region and the pandemic’s impact on its population. But we all met this challenge with a coordinated response,” he said.
The Prime Minister said collaboration was a valuable take-away from the pandemic. “Through our openness and determination, we have managed to achieve one of the lowest fatality rates in the world. This deserves to be applauded. Today, the hopes of our region and the world are focused on rapid deployment of vaccines. In this too, we must maintain the same cooperative and collaborative spirit,” he said.
Barring Pakistan that has procured Covid vaccine from China, other attending countries have received Indian support. The PM also suggested today that countries of the region share successful public health policies and flagged Ayushman Bharat and Jan Arogya schemes as success stories from India.
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