India uses Saarc Covid Fund for HCQ tablets to neighbours. Afghanistan next
India has decided to send 5 lakh tablets of hydroxychloroquine to Afghanistan from the Saarc Covid-19 Emergency Fund set up at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s suggestion last month. The fund was created with an initial corpus of $10 million from India; other Saarc members had also pitched in.
A top government official told Hindustan Times that the decision to send the tablets had been taken but New Delhi is yet to work out the logistics in view of relations with neighbouring Pakistan. “We are looking at various possibilities to reach the medicine to the people of Afghanistan at the earliest,” the official said.
One of the options being explored is use of third-party planes, may be international cargo planes.
A second official said India had already made deliveries of hydroxychloroquine to other Saarc countries such as Maldives, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. There has been no proposal to send the medicine to Pakistan in the absence of a request from Islamabad.
“I think there have been public statements by leaders in Pakistan that they have sufficient supply of the medicine,” the official said.
Global demand for the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine had boosted over the last few weeks after some studies showed that it helped to reduce the viral load in Covid-19 patients.
India initially had banned exports of the drug to ensure that there were sufficient supplies to cater to domestic requirements. These restrictions were later eased, mostly to enable pharmaceutical companies to honour their contractual obligations on a case-to-case basis.
Otherwise too, pharma companies have been permitted exports to friendly countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
The decision taken to supply the medicine and other medical assistance under the Saarc Covid-19 Emergency Fund demonstrates the utility of the fund that was created last month.
PM Modi, speaking at the virtual conference of Saarc leaders, had underscored that the fund would be financed by voluntary contributions from all members. Pakistan was the last member state to pledge its share of the contribution, $ 3 million, but had demanded that the fund should be placed at the disposal of the secretary general of the South Asian grouping.
The current secretary general of Saarc is veteran Sri Lankan diplomat Esala Ruwan Weerakoon, who recently succeeded Pakistan’s Amjad Hussain Sial.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan was the only Saarc head of government who opted out of the conference and instead, sent Pakistan’s de facto health minister for the meeting.