Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen has called upon the Foreign Ministers of Saarc Member States to work together to strengthen regional cooperation leveraging the Saarc mechanism to fight against the challenges posed by Covid-19 and explore the new opportunities of cooperation.
"Covid-19 would unfold many new opportunities with new areas of cooperation while many existing sectors might either disappear partially or totally or lose relevance as before," he said while delivering his statement in an informal meeting of the Saarc Council of Ministers held virtually on Thursday.
With a view to revitalising Saarc, Dr Momen underscored the need for revisiting the entire plan of action of Saarc system for its effective implementation.
He was of the view that sectors like food and agriculture, public health, ICT, trade and investment are likely to require more focus during the post-Covid-19 period.
The Foreign Minister also called upon his colleagues to consider convening of some functional meetings like the meeting of the Foreign Secretaries to regularise many pending recommendations by other lower functional bodies of Saarc and work out ways and means to make Saarc more effective during the post-Covid-19 recovery efforts by the member states.
The meeting was held virtually on the sidelines of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly.
The Foreign Minister conveyed the dream of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to work together with the neighbours in South Asia for the collective benefits of people.
He reiterated the proposal made by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the videoconference of the Saarc leaders held in March this year to establish a Saarc Public Health Research Institute in Dhaka to study and find out solutions to Covid-19 as well as future similar public health threats with support from all member states of Saarc.
On the occasion of the celebration of the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman this year, he reaffirmed Bangladesh's strong commitment to strengthening Saarc Forum as a common platform in South Asia for effective regional cooperation.
Indian External Affairs Minister (MEA) Dr S Jaishankar called upon Saarc member states to collectively resolve to defeat the scourge of terrorism, including the forces that nurture, support and encourage an environment of terror and conflict.
He said these impede the objective of Saarc to realise its full potential for collective collaboration and prosperity across South Asia.
Dr Jaishankar reiterated India's steadfast commitment to Saarc in building a connected, integrated, secure and prosperous South Asia, according to MEA.
He highlighted a slew of measures taken by India in the follow-up to the Saarc leaders' videoconference, including virtually convening health professionals and trade officials' meetings, creating a 'Covid-19 Information Exchange Platform (COINEX), foreign currency swap support and activation of Saarc Food Bank mechanism.
Dr Jaishankar informed that under India's contribution to Saarc Covid-19 Emergency Fund, supply of essential drugs, medical consumables, Covid protection and testing kits, and other equipment, amounting US$ 2.3 million, were made available to countries in the Saarc region.
He reiterated India's continued commitment to assisting countries in the Saarc region in combating Covid-19 pandemic.
The Saarc Foreign Ministers emphasised the need to work collectively to overcome the adverse impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in the region.
They appreciated the initiative of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in convening the Saarc Leaders' videoconference on Covid-19 in March this year.
The Saarc Foreign Ministers in an informal meeting of the Saarc Council of Ministers held virtually also reviewed the subsequent regional initiatives undertaken to fight against the pandemic.
Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal, chaired the Informal meeting, attended by the Ministers of Foreign/External Affairs of all the Member States of Saarc, according to the Saarc Secretariat.
The chair underscored the importance of collective efforts for strengthening regional cooperation to cope with the emerging challenges posed by the global pandemic.
In this context, he emphasised the need to reinvigorate the Saarc process to make it more focused and result-oriented in meeting the hopes and aspirations of the people of South Asia.
In their country statements, the Ministers of Foreign/External Affairs apprised the Council about the status of implementation of Saarc decisions as well as initiatives taken at the national level to fight the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, Secretary General of Saarc, also addressed the informal meeting.
In his address, the Secretary General presented a progress report on regional cooperation since the last informal meeting of the Saarc Council of Ministers.
Referring to the Saarc Charter, he stated that Saarc holds the potential to promote effective regional cooperation in every sphere of development, including for addressing the challenges posed by the pandemic.