If neighbours does extend cooperation to each other, then this would be a departure from their current state of ties. PHOTO: FILE

Pakistan hints at working with India on Covid-19

If neighbours does extend cooperation to each other, then this would be a departure from their current state of ties

Kamran Yousuf March 12, 2020
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday hinted at working with neighbouring countries -- including India -- to deal with coronavirus, which has now spread to over 100 countries and has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

The number of coronavirus cases both from India and Pakistan is still in two digits but WHO and health experts warned that the pandemic could spread quickly if adequate measures are not in place to contain it.

Responding to a question at her weekly news briefing as to whether Pakistan would work with neighbouring countries including India to contain the virus, Foreign Office spokesperson Aisha Farooqui said Islamabad was ready to extend assistance to neighbours.
“Government of Pakistan is monitoring the situation very closely and will take measures required for the citizens within Pakistan and any assistance we can provide to our neighbouring countries,” the spokesperson added.

If the two neighbours does extend cooperation to each other, then this would be a departure from their current state of ties. Pakistan and India have tense relations dating back to February last year's tit-for-tat airstrikes.

What has further aggravated the situation was India's unilateral move to do away with the special status of the disputed region of Jammu and Kashmir. Since then the two countries have little or no official channel of communication.

To a question why Pakistan, like, other countries was not taking strict measures such as travel advisories to contain the virus, the spokesperson said each country was taking measures in order to ensure safety of their citizens.

“It is the primary responsibility of those countries to take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Pakistan is also taking all the requisite steps at our borders and airports to ensure the safety of our people and control the spread of Coronavirus,” she said.

Aisha denied reports that Pakistan closed its consular section and consulate in Herat because of the outbreak of coronavirus.
“Pakistan Consulate in Herat has been closed for fifteen days for administrative reasons. Similarly, the consular section of Pakistan Embassy in Kabul has also been closed for a few days for administrative reasons,” she insisted.

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She said Pakistan had been in touch with Saudi authorities after Riyadh asked all foreign nationals -- including Pakistanis -- to leave the kingdom within 72 hours.

“As for the report of the Ministry of Interior of Saudi Arabia, we have seen the report and I have also talked to our ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, who is in touch with Saudi authorities to obtain more details.”

She did not respond directly to reports that Pakistanis, who returned from Iran through Taftan border, were facing a bad situation after they were put into quarantine.

“A significant number of Pakistani Zaireen who went to Iran has returned through Taftan border. The Ministry of Health and other stakeholders have set up facilities in coordination with the provincial government of Balochistan for screening and quarantine of Zaireen.”
“All efforts are being made to make sure that best possible measures are taken for the safety of Pakistani citizens. This is an ongoing work which is being taken on a daily basis because of large number of Zaireen.”

On the recent oath-taking of Ashraf Ghani as Afghan president, the spokesperson said the Independent Election Commission declared Ghani as winner in the polls.

“Subsequently, Pakistan felicitated President Ashraf Ghani and Prime Minister Imran Khan also conveyed felicitations and best wishes to the new president and for the Afghan people,” she said.

Aisha said Pakistan hoped that all sides would move forward to achieve peace in Afghanistan after the Taliban refused to enter into intra-Afghan dialogue after their 5,000 prisoners were released as agreed in the US-Taliban deal.

“We believe an intra-Afghan dialogue is a crucial step in this journey towards durable peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. Pakistan has played its role as a facilitator and we hope that now the representatives of the Afghan people will lead Afghanistan from conflict and strife to peace and security in the days and months ahead.”

She maintained that the US Taliban Peace Agreement was a historic step towards the ultimate goal of achieving peace and stability in Afghanistan. “The Peace Agreement reflects commitment by both the US and Taliban to work constructively. It is now imperative to seize the opportunity towards the next step of intra-Afghan negotiations.”


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