India will host a meet of regional countries on COVID-19 crisis next week, expectedly on February 22. The meet at the official level – primarily health experts will focus on the exchange of good practices to deal with the crisis. Many of the countries who have been invited are members of the SAARC grouping. Pakistan has also been sent the invite.

Interestingly, the meet is expected to be addressed by high-level dignitaries. Many of the invited countries have confirmed that they will take part in the meet.

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In March last year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had called for a SAARC meet on the COVID-19 pandemic. The meet saw all the SAARC heads of govt/state taking part barring Pakistan. Pakistan was present at a junior level at the meeting. One of the key outcomes of the meet was the establishment of the SAARC emergency fund, with India contributing USD10 million to it.

Amid the pandemic, India reached out to many countries in the region with medicines and other aid. It sent 75000 metric ton of food aid to Afghanistan via Chabahar, medical equipment, and other related things like masks to Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh. Under Mission Sagar 1, while it reached out to 5 countries in the Indian Ocean – Maldives, Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros, and Seychelles by sending medicines and food aid.

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This year, India gifted COVID vaccines to countries in the region. These are Bangladesh with 20 lakhs doses, Myanmar with 17 lakhs doses, Nepal with 10 lakhs, Bhutan with 1.5 lakhs, Maldives with 1 lakh, Mauritius with 1 lakh, Seychelles with 50000, Sri Lanka with 5 lakhs and Afghanistan with 5 lakhs. This is additional to many countries in Latin America, CARICOM that New Delhi reached out.

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