Coronavirus pandemic ‘litmus test’ for multilateralism, says Qureshi
Islamabad: Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said on Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic was a “litmus test” for multilateralism and expressed confidence that the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) was well equipped to tackle the crisis.
Speaking at an extraordinary virtual meeting of the SCO Foreign Ministers, Qureshi said that the pandemic posed a challenge of unprecedented scale and magnitude to humanity that necessitated coordinated responses.
He urged the SCO member states to work jointly to contain the virus that has killed nearly 300,000 people worldwide.
Qureshi said the crisis “was a litmus test for multilateralism, and the SCO was well equipped to tackle it,” according to the Foreign Office.
He briefed the SCO Foreign Ministers on Pakistan’s coordinated response to COVID-19 covering the public health as well as the economic aspects of the crisis. He observed that even though infections were spreading, Pakistan had seen relatively low fatalities.
Qureshi in his address also “stressed the need for the SCO to reject stigmatization and discrimination of any community in the context of COVID-19 on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity.”
He praised China’s handling of the virus outbreak and expressed gratitude for Chinese assistance to Pakistan.
He made a number of proposals to strengthen coordination among SCO member states against the pandemic, including regular interaction among ministries of health; joint research mechanisms; and strengthening of the SCO Hospital Alliance.
As a means to support the economically vulnerable segments of society, Qureshi underlined Pakistan’s proposal for creation of the SCO Experts Group on Poverty Alleviation, as well as setting up the Centre of Excellence on Poverty.
The FO said that apart from the prevailing pandemic situation, matters relating to peace and security in the region including Afghanistan came under discussion during the meeting.
Qureshi welcomed the US-Talibanp peace agreement and hoped that the Afghan leadership would seize the historic opportunity to workout a comprehensive and inclusive political settlement. The SCO, through the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, could play a facilitative role at this juncture, he added.
He emphasized that tackling terrorism and extremism must continue to be a priority but terrorism related allegations must not be used as political tool to malign and victimize any country or religion.
He also called for the international community to condemn and hold accountable the perpetrators of State terrorism.
The SCO is a China-led eight-member economic and security bloc in which India and Pakistan were admitted as full members in 2017. Its founding members included China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.