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The SAARC Secretariat should play an active role in the region’s response to COVID-19, along with “someone in-charge”, according to Sri Lanka’s former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Greater regional cooperation – how can it help?

  • We must treat the COVID-19 crisis as a humanitarian issue and come up with a regional response.
  • Why SAARC? Because the ASEAN countries are already working out a programme. That would take two other BIMSTEC countries out. So, within SAARC it should work.
  • There has to be a common centre. The SAARC Secretariat and someone who is in-charge. As far as the Secretariat is concerned, the advantage is that the ambassadors accredited to SAARC are there.
  • The most advance medical knowledge in SAARC is with India, Pakistan. Sri Lanka also have some, Bangladesh has some, we have to work together.
  • If there is a big natural disaster in India, whatever the problems are, Pakistan will speak. When there is one in Pakistan, India will speak. Look at this as a humanitarian crisis.
  • SAARC will have to decide where exactly it has to be, it is not something to fight over, it is a matter of convenience.
  • We have to look at issues pertaining not only to health, but also to our economies. Like the problem of debt, which is heavy for India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.’
  • We need to work on regional tourism, we can keep moving around and encouraging that. People aren’t going to come from a distance. Europeans may not come.
  • Testing is what we all have to do. If governments get into testing, that is a big opportunity to create employment – while addressing the need for medical equipment, the demand for hand sanitisers.
  • The free markets have to flow. But some of the countries that are doing well in their COVID-19 response have a more social market economy – because they put in so much into health and education – the response has been good.

What did Sri Lanka’s Former Prime Minister tell about India and Sri Lanka’s Recent Relations?

  • Sri Lanka’s Former Prime Minister told that the ambulance service that Prime Minister Modi gave at his request – “we have to thank him for that, without that it would have been much more difficult.”
  • The India-funded hospital in Dickoya [Central Province] has made a vast difference to areas without any access to medical service.
  • The India-aided infrastructure projects – the houses in Jaffna, in the hill country – all that helps in this situation.
  • The Economic and Technology Co-operation Agreement (ETCA) [proposed between Sri Lanka and India] should come in.
  • India should reconsider coming into the RCEP (The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership).

Read more about ‘SAARC countries uniting to combat COVID-19’ at:

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