Pakistan’s attempt to “politicise” a humanitarian issue is “unwarranted”: India

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Pakistani Rangers (in Black) and Indian Border Security Force personnel (in Brown) perform the 'flag off' ceremony at the Pakistan-India Wagah Border Post on January 15, 2013. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh warned Tuesday that there "cannot be business as usual" with neighbouring Pakistan after last week's deadly flare-up along the border in disputed Kashmir. AFP PHOTO/Arif ALI (Photo credit should read Arif Ali/AFP/Getty Images)

India on Sunday slammed Pakistan for raising Kashmir during the SAARC video conference on tackling the novel coronavirus.

NDTV quoting Government sources reported that Pakistan’s attempt to “politicise” a humanitarian issue by its “unwarranted” statement on Kashmir during the video conference on coronavirus reflected “very poorly” on it.

Apart from PM Modi, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepalese Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, Bhutanese premier Lotay Tshering, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister on Health Zafar Mirza, participated in the video conference.

In his opening remarks, PM Modi said India’s guiding mantra to deal with the virus was “prepare, but don’t panic”.

“We were careful to not underestimate the problem, but also to avoid knee-jerk reactions,” he said.

In a significant message, PM Modi asserted that it was important for the SAARC member countries to work together and said the region can best respond to the coronavirus pandemic by “coming together, not growing apart”.

PM Modi said it was important to focus on collaboration, not confusion, and preparation, not panic.

Mr Mirza, in his remarks, also hailed China for its efforts to deal with coronavirus and urged other SAARC nations to learn best practices from it.

Raising Kashmir, he said, “Equity in health is a fundamental principle of public health. In this regard, let me say that it is a matter of concern that COVID-19 has been reported from Jammu and Kashmir. In view of the health emergency, it is imperative that all lockdown” there must be lifted immediately, he said.

“Opening up communication and movement would facilitate dissemination of information, allow distribution of medical supplies and allow containment…to proceed unimpeded,” Special Assistant to Pakistani Prime Minister on Health Mirza said.

Government sources told NDTV that Pakistan chose to be “churlish” and used the video conference for political point scoring.

After initial remarks by the leaders, Prime Minister Modi made a series of suggestions which were hailed by the SAARC leaders and representatives.

“I propose we create a COVID-19 Emergency Fund. This could be based on voluntary contributions from all of us. India can start with an initial offer of 10 million dollars for this fund. Any of us can use the fund to meet the cost of immediate actions,” PM Modi said.

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