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Reviving the SAARC spirit – Cover Story News

The video conference was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pitch for a leadership role for India among the eight South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) member-countries. The conference breathed life into a 35-year-old organisation that had been comatose for nearly four years now. The 19th summit, scheduled to be held in Islamabad in November 2016, was cancelled after four member-countries boycotted it following a terrorist attack by Pakistan-based terrorists at Uri.

Participants in the teleconference included Sri Lankan president Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maldivian president Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, Nepalese prime minister K.P. Sharma Oli, Bhutanese premier Lotay Tshering, Bangladeshi prime minister Sheikh Hasina and Afghan president Ashraf Ghani. Prime Minister Imran Khan was represented by Zafar Mirza, his special assistant on health.

Hostility between India and Pakistan over a spate of terror attacks and, more recently, over Jammu and Kashmir, has shelved the grouping. Mutual concerns over the novel coronavirus pandemic seemed to be an ideal reason to revive it. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, three of the world’s most densely populated countries, account for 20 per cent of the earth’s people. And given that Afghanistan and Pakistan share land boundaries with Iran, which with 16,000 cases and 988 deaths, is the world’s third most infected country (after China and Italy) the peril seems particularly acute. Neighbours in South Asia can control the spread of the novel coronavirus by coming together, not growing apart, said Modi. India’s $10 million contribution to what is clearly the worst global health crisis in over a decade though was modest. What would have helped is material assistance, drugs, masks and ventilators.

Islamabad, on its part, showed its churlishness when the Pakistani representative, Mirza, brought up the issue of Kashmir and said the coronavirus outbreak was time for India to loosen restrictions on the Valley.

Celebrities and A-listers who have tested positive for COVID-19

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson: The couple was released from Gold Coast hospital, Australia, on March 17 after a five-day quarantine

Sophie Trudeau: The wife of Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau, she developed CoVid-19 symptoms after a speaking engagement in the UK.

Idris Elba: The 47-year-old actor was infected after exposure to someone who also tested positive.

Kristofer Hivju: The Game of Thrones actor confirmed his infection via Instagram in which he said he had only mild symptoms

Nadine Dorries: The 62-year-old UK health minister is the first member of Parliament to be infected.

Rudy Gobert: The French Basketball player tested positive before the start of the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City’s match.

Mikel Arteta: The 37-year-old Arsenal manager is the first Premier League figure to be diagnosed with CoVid-19.

Peter Dutton: The Australian home affairs minister has tested positive for the virus. He is currently at a hospital in Queensland.

Frank Riester: Though he has tested positive for CoVid-19, the French culture minister is not at a hospital but confined to his home.

Irene Montero: The equality minister of Spain tested positive for CoVid-19. Her husband and deputy prime minister Pablo Iglesias, too, is in quarantine with other members of the government.

Lucian Grainge: Chairman and CEO of Universal Music.

Olga Kurylenko: Actor, best known for her role as the Bond girl in Quantum of Solace.

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