New Delhi, February 18:
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday called for greater integration among South Asian and Indian Ocean island countries, saying the spirit of regional solidarity shown during the COVID-19 pandemic has proven such integration is possible.
Addressing a workshop on ‘COVID-19 Management: Experience, Good Practices and Way Forward’ with 10 neighbouring countries, including the extended neighbourhood, Modi said the spirit of collaboration is a valuable takeaway from this pandemic.
The prime minister said that if 21st century is to be the Asian century, then it cannot be without greater integration among South Asian and Indian Ocean island countries.
The spirit of regional solidarity shown during the pandemic has proven such integration is possible, he said.
Through openness and determination, Modi said, the region has managed to achieve one of the lowest fatality rates in the world.
He noted that experts had voiced concern over the pandemic’s dangers to the densely populated region, but it has managed one of the lowest fatality rates in the world.
The prime minister lauded the region’s coordinated response, recognition of the virus’ threat and commitment to fight together. Many regions and groups followed our example, he said.
The hopes of the region and the world are focussed now on rapid deployment of vaccines, and they should maintain the same collaborative spirit, Modi said in his brief address.
Health cooperation in the region has already achieved so much, the prime minister said, asking if the region now can raise its ambitions further.
Modi also made certain suggestions to foster the collaborative spirit to help each other.
He asked if a special visa scheme for doctors and nurses can be created so that they can travel quickly within the region during health emergencies.
Modi also proposed that a regional platform be created for collating, compiling and studying effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines among the region’s populations.
India’s health schemes like Ayushman Bharat, an insurance scheme for the poor, can be taken up as a case study by other countries, he said.