Pakistan’s contribution triggers debate over SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund

Pakistan declared a $3 million contribution to the Fund to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak in South Asia.


Pakistan is trying to score “narrow political points” by tying its contribution to the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund to the bureaucracy of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), sources said on Thursday.

The comments from the Indian side came minutes after Pakistan declared a $3 million contribution to the Fund to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak in South Asia saying that the amount should be administered through the SAARC Secretariat located in Kathmandu and its utilisation should be finalised through consultations with the SAARC members “as per the SAARC Charter”.

In contrast, India has maintained since the Fund was launched on March 15, by the initiative of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, that it should be considered as a “stand-alone” emergency step that should remain “outside the SAARC calendar of approved activities”.

Officials here feel that by linking the Fund with the SAARC Secretariat and the SAARC Charter, Pakistan will “block all our initiatives and proposals ….for each and every step of the way”. The Indian and Pakistani positions on how to use contributions from the SAARC member countries have thrown up two divergent positions regarding the modality to be followed for utilising the dedicated multi-nation aide.

Speaking off the record, a source from a third member country said, that other SAARC member states have not enunciated any such established method nor have they insisted on a particular expenditure modality so far indicating that they maintain a flexible “crisis based approach” to the Fund.

After Prime Minister Modi announced $10 million at the video conference of SAARC leaders on March 15, other member countries came forward with contributions for the initiative. The Ministry of External Affairs has said earlier that the Indian contribution has been activated to help member states in need of assistance to counter the pandemic. “Keeping control of the activities that emerged from PM’s video conference of March 15 has helped us move much faster and without any hindrances,” said a source explaining India’s critical response to Pakistan’s contribution to the Fund.