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India Indicates Continuation of Cooperation Among SAARC Members Despite Differences With Pakistan

New Delhi (Sputnik): India’s proposal last month to revive talks among SAARC members after a four-year hiatus had come as a surprise in the midst of a pandemic, but the initiative was moved forward with the full agreement of members on 15 March with a videoconference.

In spite of Pakistan’s discontentment over India’s role in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the country's External Affairs Ministry has announced an e-training programme for health professionals in the member states on managing the coronavirus pandemic.

The training will be conducted under the ministry’s Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme from 17 April to 21 April. The programme "COVID-19 Pandemic: Prevention and management guidelines for health care professionals" is under the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Raipur.

The ​Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) programme has announced two initiatives. The other initiative is called the "Capacity building programme on COVID-19 for SAARC countries" from 27 April to 6 May under the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research.

However, Pakistan is excluded from the partner countries under the capacity-building programme. When Sputnik tried to confirm the exclusion from the Ministry of External Affairs, it did not receive any response.

Last week, while boycotting a teleconference convention of commerce officers from SAARC international locations, Pakistan had stated that “such conferences might solely be efficient if spearheaded by the group’s secretariat as a substitute of India”.

It further bickered over the COVID-19 emergency fund initiated by India last month. Making a contribution of $3 million to the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund, Pakistan had said that “all proceeds of the fund should be administered by the SAARC Secretariat and that the [means] for the Fund’s utilisation should be finalised through consultations with the member Ssates as per the SAARC Charter”.

India clarified its stance by saying that it is for each SAARC member to decide on the timing, manner, and implementation of their SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund commitments.

SAARC, comprised of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka,  was founded in 1985 but following the terror attacks in India in 2016 by Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed had resulted in a boycott of the SAARC summit in Islamabad, the capital city of Pakistan.

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