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Will the Coronavirus Crisis Revive Regional Cooperation?
Suddenly, a very popular gesture. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives for a cabinet meeting at the Prime Minister's Office in New Delhi last May. (Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

Will the Coronavirus Crisis Revive Regional Cooperation?

Al-Etihad, UAE, March 28

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) is a group of countries in South Asia, similar in function to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). However, SAARC has never been an effective regional forum, especially in light of the growing rivalry between two of its members: India and Pakistan. Interestingly, the association – which also includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka – is now witnessing a reawakening in light of the coronavirus epidemic. Last week, during a joint video conference with SAARC leaders, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed a regional action plan to tackle the epidemic and announced the creation of an emergency fund, with an Indian contribution of $10 million. India committed to providing a rapid response team of doctors and health workers, as well as some test and examination kits. Other member-states also contributed funds, bringing the total amount at SAARC’s disposal to $18.3 million. This cooperation reflects a high level of shared determination to confront the coronavirus epidemic in the region. Indeed, the spread of the virus appears to be bringing to the fore previously unimaginable partnerships among South Asian countries, providing an unprecedented opportunity for more regional cooperation. In a separate effort to increase international cooperation, Prime Minister Modi held telephone consultations with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about the coronavirus situation in the kingdom, and about steps that could be taken to reduce the pandemic’s impact on health around the world. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia currently holds the chairmanship of the G20 and is working closely with the World Health Organization to monitor the spread of the disease, exchange relevant information on early detection and promote best practices in preventive measures. India and Saudi Arabia recognize the importance of their strategic partnership as members of the G20. The leaders of the two countries are making concerted efforts to mobilize global cooperation in dealing with the numerous challenges posed by the pandemic. Specifically, the kingdom is working to help nations reduce the economic impacts of shutdowns, with the hope of promoting the necessary measures to maintain the stability of the global economy. – Zikru Al-Rahman (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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