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New Delhi, April 1, 2020
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a videoconference with the Heads of all of India’s Embassies and High Commissions worldwide on Monday evening to discuss responses to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
In the first such event for Indian Missions worldwide, the Prime Minister noted that extraordinary times require extraordinary solutions, which was why, even in this globalized era, most of the world had quarantined itself.
This was an unavoidable step taken to fight this pandemic, but it was also hugely consequential, as the closure of the globalized system has had an extensive and the far-reaching impact upon the international transport system, financial markets and the global economy, he added.
India had taken unprecedented and early steps in response to this pandemic from mid-January this year, to reduce the risk of importing the infection and thereafter to prevent a large outbreak. This included the world’s largest quarantine and lock-down, he said.
The Prime Minister complimented the Heads of Missions for their efforts to evacuate Indians stranded abroad in some of the epicentres of the crisis. He also exhorted them to take steps on five specific counts.
They should ensure their own health and safety and that of their teams and families. They should attend to Indians who remain in various foreign countries, given the uncertainty of continuing international travel restrictions.
Modi called upon the Heads of Indian Missions to help boost the morale of such compatriots abroad and to help them address issues arising from their unplanned stay abroad with their host Governments.
They should also address other problems Indians might face abroad, including arranging shelter, where necessary and feasible.
The mission heads should stay alert and identify in their countries of accreditation best practices, innovations, scientific breakthroughs and sources to procure medical equipment, for India’s fight against COVID-19.
He also advised Heads of Mission to suitably publicize the newly-established PM-CARES Fund to mobilize donations from abroad.
Since this crisis also impacts upon the economy, he advised Heads of Mission to also focus on ensuring that commerce in essential supplies, logistics chains, remittances and so on are unaffected, through their coordination with foreign partners.
They should continue to pay close attention to the evolving international political and economic situation, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response, ten Heads of Mission, in Beijing, Washington DC, Tehran, Rome, Berlin, Kathmandu, Abu Dhabi, Kabul, Male, and Seoul offered their perspectives to the Prime Minister and the rest of the audience.
They shared feedback regarding appreciation in their countries of accreditation of the resolute measures taken by India to combat this pandemic.
The Heads of Missions outlined their efforts to help Indians stranded abroad, in particular, students and workers. They also reported efforts to identify medicine, medical devices, technologies, research and other measures which might help in India’s own national effort to fight this pandemic.
They also reported lessons learned in other countries and their best practices, in the global fight against COVID-19. They underlined measures to assist the national responses of those countries, using the special fund created at India’s initiative for SAARC countries to combat COVID-19.
In conclusion, the Prime Minister emphasized that India’s Missions abroad may well be far from home, but they remain full participants in India’s fight against COVID-19. He emphasized that the unity and alertness of all Indians would help safeguard the nation’s future.