India has called on SAARC members to collectively resolve to defeat the scourge of terrorism as it is coming in the way of the region's prosperity

SAARC member states need to “collectively resolve to defeat the scourge of terrorism, including the forces that nurture, support and encourage an environment of terror and conflict, which impede the objective of SAARC to realize its full potential for collective collaboration and prosperity across South Asia,” External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said while participating in the annual informal meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers in a virtual mode on Thursday.

The meeting chaired by Nepal reviewed regional efforts to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, participants appreciated the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in convening a video conference of SAARC leaders on March 15 to take collaborative measures towards combating the pandemic across the region. This included the creation of SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund, to which all countries have pledged voluntary contributions.

Jaishankar, in his statement, reiterated India’s steadfast commitment to SAARC in building a connected, integrated, secure and prosperous South Asia.

He highlighted a slew of measures taken by India in the follow-up to the SAARC leaders video conference, 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.

The EAM 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 USD 2.3 million, were made available to countries in the SAARC region.

He also reiterated India’s continued commitment to assisting countries in the SAARC region in combating COVID-19 pandemic.

Earlier, talking about the meeting, Jaishankar tweeted, “Addressed the SAARC Foreign Ministers Informal Meeting today. Reaffirmed India’s commitment to Neighbourhood First policy and towards building a connected, integrated, secure and prosperous South Asia.”

The SAARC informal meetings, held since 1997, take advantage of the opportunity provided by the presence of the Foreign Ministers at UNGA sessions to exchange views on SAARC issues.

The meeting received a report from the Secretary-General on the status of regional cooperation since the last informal meeting of the SAARC Council of Ministers in New York on September 26, 2019.