Using its SAARC COVID – 19 Emergence Fund, India has sent drugs, medical supplies and machines to Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Maldives and Sri Lanka.
This amount of $1.7 million does not include the transportation of the relief commodities, which has, in some sectors, translated into 2-3 times the value of the relief material as New Delhi chartered flights to quickly reach the material to their destination.
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the other regional leader to have started delivering on her $1.5 million promise, dispatched a shipload of relief material to Maldives this week.
There has been no word from Pakistan, Prime Minister, Imran Khan’s government, pledged $3 million after holding off for 25 days. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi had during a video conference of heads of government of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation member countries on March 15 proposed voluntary contributions to help others in the region.
PM Modi, when he proposed the fund, had committed to spend $ 10 million, followed by Sri Lanka ($5 million) and then Bangladesh ($1.5 million). In all, except Pakistan, the fund has firm commitments of $18.8 million.
Imran Khan had absented himself from the video conference. Islamabad was, instead, represented by its de facto health minister Zafar Mirza.
Zafar Mirza, whose performance as Pakistan’s key man to tackle the coronavirus pandemic had recently come in for sharp criticism from its Supreme Court, had also created a flutter at the March 15 Saarc conference when he raised Kashmir at this discussion.
The idea of setting up the fund, as the external affairs ministry later explained, was that each country sets aside a certain amount of money that it would spend to help each other.
“It is for each SAARC Member State to decide on the timing, manner and implementation of their Saarc Covid-19 Emergency Response Fund commitments,” foreign ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava, had said.
Pakistan’s commitment to spend $3 million on other countries was followed by a rider that their fund should be channeled via the SAARC secretariat based in Kathmandu.