New Delhi's prolonged Kashmir-lockdown causes concerns amidst Corona pandemic

[TamilNet, Saturday, 28 March 2020, 20:07 GMT]
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi has demanded the regional grouping SAARC place the COVID-19 Emergency Fund under the disposal of the Secretary-General of SAARC. New Delhi offered an initial contribution of US $10 million, which was followed by Colombo offering $5 million, Malé $2 million, Dhaka $1.5 million, Kathmandu $1 million and Thimphu $100,000. While the heads of states of seven countries took part in a video conference, Pakistan deployed Dr Zafar Mirza, a ministerial rank special assistant to its prime minister to represent the country. Dr Mirza was urging India to relax the lockdown in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. In the meantime, news reports from Srinagar said anxiety and fear were high in the Indian-administered Kashmir as the speed restriction imposed by New Delhi on internet services continues under the pandemic outbreak.

[Courtesy: The Quint, March 26, 2020]

“The negligence of the Indian state towards Kashmiris can be explicitly seen as criminal and in fact, genocidal,” wrote Kashmir Scholars Consultative and Action Network. The interdisciplinary group was making an appeal to the World Health Organization seeking an immediate intervention in lifting sanctions imposed on high-speed internet in the region, reported Turkish Anadolu news agency on 21 March.

“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 IOK and in view of the health emergency, it is imperative that all lockdown there must be lifted immediately,” Dr Mirza had stated in his address during the SAARC video conference.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had initiated the video conference on 15 March.

[Courtesy: Indian Ministry of External Affairs]

After the video conference, Pakistan’s FM Quershi was making phone calls to some of his counterparts in the region, including SL Minister for Foreign Affairs Dinesh Gunawardena, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and Nepali Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali. The SAARC Secretariat is based in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Quershi was stressing that the funds should be placed under the SAARC Secretary, Esala Weerakoon, a Sinhala diplomat who has taken up the position since 01 March.

Mr Weerakoon is a career diplomat, who served as an additional senior secretary to SL president before he was appointed SAARC Secretary. He served as SL High Commissioner to India between 2015 and 2018 and was Colombo’s Ambassador to Norway, particularly during the genocidal onslaught on Eezham Tamils in 2009.

In the meantime, Senior US diplomat on South Asian affairs Alice G Wells has applauded the SAARC move as an “excellent example of South Asian countries coming together to fight a global pandemic” in a tweet. She also appreciated the contribution of Indian doctors.

At the same time, China has held an international e-conference, China-Eurasia National Health Sector Expert Video Conference, to share knowledge and information about health management and pandemic control. Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui was appreciating China for organising the conference.

The US was also making a “Indo-Pacific” teleconference on 20 March inviting its Quad partners, Japan, Australia and India in addition to South Korea, New Zealand and Vietnam. The telephonic conference was initiated by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Stephen Biegun for discussions among some countries in the Indo-Pacific region on issues related to countering COVID-19, a statement issued by Indian Ministry of External Affairs said.

External Links:
The News: COVID-19 pandemic: Pakistan calls for placing emergency fund under Saarc SG
Anadolu Agency: COVID-19 information blackout hitting Kashmir hard
The Times of India : India, Quad-Plus countries discuss Covid-19 battle, economic resurgence
Indian Ministry of External Affairs: Foreign Secretary's Conference Call with counterparts from Indo-Pacific Countries
Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Foreign Minister Qureshi holds telephone conversation with Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen



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