Covid-19 Pandemic in So. Asia: ‘Peace Mongers’ Call for Cooperation, Empathy

Dozens of South Asians came together for an online meet on Sunday and expressed grief, solidarity amid the suffering inflicted by the pandemic in the region and worldwide.

The huddle dovetails several independent observers’ view for regional cooperation beyond geopolitics and fight the “crisis”, its potential fallouts.

‘If this erupts, it’ll hit the world’, said Indian journalist Barkha Dutt on India Covid crisis after her father dies. She spoke with ITV and talked about how badly the crisis has been handled.

India added a record over 3.32 lakh new coronavirus cases in a single day taking the country’s tally to 1,62,63,695, while active cases crossed the 24-lakh mark, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Friday.

According to reports, Pakistan-based Edhi Welfare Trust offered to send 50 ambulances with support staff to India to help fight the COVID surge.

The online event which was organized by the recently launched South Asia Peace Action Network (SAPAN) while calling for empathy and cooperation to fight the pandemic in the region, seeks to complement other organizations who are working to bring peace in South Asia.

SAPAN was launched by some peace activists from India and Pakistan last month –they held a virtual session, and resolved to bring “peace-monger” groups and individuals working towards peace and stability in the region under one umbrella.

According to their press release shared with DesPardes, “a great volume of pain and suffering (in the region) could be mitigated through greater socio-economic cooperation, resource-sharing, and a visa-free South Asia.”

The focus of the Sunday event was originally planned as a call to open sporting ties and visas in South Asia, but “was changed at the last minute due to the dire situation on ground in India where a mounting daily death toll and rising infection rates are stretching health facilities, crematoriums and burial grounds beyond capacity.”

Prominent attendees included Kathmandu-based journalist Kanak Mani Dixit; environmental, peace and rights activist Lalita Ramdas; former Indian Navy chief R. Ramdas in Alibag village, south of Mumbai; former Planning Commission member Dr Syeda Hameed in Delhi; Lahore-based artist Salima Hashmi; Dhaka-based activists Nazneen Firdausi and Khushi Kabir; journalist Rajdeep Sardesai from Delhi; Boston-based journalist Beena Sarwar in Karachi; former Pakistani test cricketer Jalaluddin; international squash player Nooreena Shams; sports journalist Afia Salam from Karachi, and Zainab Abbas from Lahore.

They shared their experiences of personal loss over the past 24 hours. Prominent educationist Baela Jamil had to leave the program as news came about a cousin’s death in Lahore.

Eminent sports journalist Sharda Ugra said she lost a friend in Mumbai that morning –prominent photojournalist Vivek Bendre. Two prominent peace activists also passed away that morning in India, says the PR.

The event was the first of a series of monthly discussions being curated by the “coalition of individuals and organizations who have joined hands to take forward the principles and ideals of peace, justice, democracy and human rights in the region.”

Irshad Salim, Islamabad