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Countries in the region support Prime Minister Modi’s suggestions to strengthen cooperation in South Asia

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday proposed five measures to prepare countries in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region to deal with future medical emergencies, including a special visa regime for medical personnel and measures technologies to fight pandemics.

Modi made the suggestions in a video message to a virtual workshop on Managing Covid-19: Experience, good practices and the way forward hosted by India for health officials and experts from the eight members. of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and Mauritius and the Seychelles.

Representatives from Pakistan attended a meeting hosted by India after a long hiatus, although the country was part of a meeting of ASACR leaders convened by Modi in March last year to forge a coordinated response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

People familiar with the developments said on condition of anonymity that all countries, including Pakistan, supported the five measures and offered a structured discussion on regional cooperation to move them forward.

With the exception of Pakistan, which did not request vaccines from India, the other participating countries thanked India for its supplies of vaccines, drugs and equipment amid the pandemic, the people said.

Noting that health cooperation within the region over the past year has resulted in significant achievements, Modi said now is the time to think about increasing our ambition further.

He suggested the 10 countries should consider creating a special visa system for doctors and nurses so that medical personnel can travel quickly to the region during health emergencies, while civil aviation ministries should coordinate. on a regional air ambulance agreement for medical contingencies.

Can we create a regional platform to collect, compile and study data on the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines in our population? Can we similarly create a regional network to promote technology-driven epidemiology to prevent future pandemics? Modi said.

Beyond the pandemic, Modi suggested countries share their successful public health policies and programs. He said the Indias Aayushman Bharat and Jan Arogya projects could be case studies for the region.

The workshop was chaired by India’s Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan. The other countries Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Mauritius, Nepal, Pakistan, Seychelles and Sri Lanka were represented by health officials and technical team leaders in charge of managing Covid-19.

Modi pointed out that countries in the region have responded to the challenges of Covid-19 with a coordinated response after many experts expressed their particular concern about our densely populated region. South Asia was among the first regions to unite to recognize the threat and commit to combating it together, he said.

Countries in the region have established a Covid-19 emergency response fund and have shared resources, materials and knowledge. This spirit of collaboration is an element to take away from this pandemic. Thanks to our openness and determination, we have managed to achieve one of the lowest death rates in the world, said Modi.

Today, the hopes of our region and the world are focused on the rapid deployment of vaccines. In this area too, we must maintain the same spirit of cooperation and collaboration, he added.

Modi said that the collaboration on health care and medical issues could become the way for more regional cooperation among us in other areas as well.

In an apparent message to Pakistan, Modi said: After all, we share so many common challenges of climate change, natural disasters, poverty, illiteracy and social and gender imbalances, but we also share the power of culture and people the connections between people. If we focus on all that unites us, our region can overcome not only the current pandemic, but our other challenges as well.

Modi said that if the 21st century is to be the Asian century, there cannot be but greater integration between the countries of South Asia and the island countries of the Indian Ocean. He added: The spirit of regional solidarity that you showed during the pandemic has proven that such integration is possible.

India has so far supplied more than 23 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine to more than 20 countries around the world and the government plans to roll out more doses to different parts of the world in the coming weeks.

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