No, US and UK have not selected PM Modi to lead a coronavirus task force

A WION news broadcast is doing the rounds on social media with the claim that 18 nations including the United States and the United Kingdom want Prime Minister Narendra Modi to lead a task force to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Below is a tweet by Maharashtra BJP General Secretary Atul Bhatkhalkar.

Rajat Sethi, advisor to Manipur Chief Minister, took a step further and wrote, “World leaders Trump, Boris Johnson, Scott Morrison etc want our PM Modi to lead the efforts.”

The broadcast is viral on Facebook and Twitter alike. Alt News has also received multiple fact-check requests on its official mobile application.

FALSE CLAIM

The clip in question is WION’s March 15, 2020, broadcast titled, “World leaders laud PM Modi’s initiative, Australia welcomes PM Modi’s calls for G20 linkup as well.”

In the broadcast, the anchor does not say that PM Modi has been chosen by the US, UK and 18 other nations to lead a coronavirus task force but India has “emerged” as a leader to take charge of a task force because PM Modi called for a joint action plan between countries to contain the pandemic. “All SAARC nations welcomed India’s move saying that they want to work closely with New Delhi to chalk out a strategy to combat the deadly disease,” the anchor says. Here, she is specifically talking about member states of SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) – India, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

As far as other parts of the world are concerned, here’s what the anchor said: “Praises were not limited to South Asia but leaders from other parts of the world also reached out to Prime Minister Modi. Among the firsts was British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who discussed coordinated international efforts to tackle the outbreak with Modi. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison lauded Prime Minister Modi’s efforts to organise a G20 link up.” It is noteworthy that the United States did not find a mention throughout the length of the show.

It could be argued that the reportage borderlines hyperbole, however, nowhere does the anchor claim that PM Modi has been selected to lead a global task force on COVID-19 crisis. She spoke of the interactions the Prime Minister had with world leaders.

WION is an Indian news channel covering global affairs. It is owned by Zee Media. Its editor-in-chief is Sudhir Chaudhary, who is also the editorial head at Zee News. 

What global initiatives has India undertaken to tackle coronavirus pandemic?

On March 13, PM Modi tweeted, “I would like to propose that the leadership of SAARC nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight Coronavirus.”

The first-ever video conference between SAARC leaders was held on March 15, where PM Modi extended $10 million as India’s contribution to a COVID-19 emergency fund. Other nations such as Sri Lanka and Bangladesh pledged $5 million and $1.5 million respectively. Pakistan is the only nation yet to announce any contribution to the fund. Pakistan has demanded that the fund should be placed under the General Secretary of the South Asian grouping.

WION further referred to G20 while reporting that Australian PM Morrison lauded PM Modi’s efforts to link-up a G20 effort. The channel subsequently played Morrison’s address where he commended the Indian Prime Minister’s proposal but said that the matter can be decided by the Saudi government, the President of the G20 this year. A G20 virtual summit was held on March 26. It was chaired by the King of Saudi Arabia and attended by leaders of the member states, including PM Modi. G20 nations pledged a combined sum of $5 trillion to tackle the social and economic impacts of the crisis. PM Modi neither led the G20 conference nor has India made a separate contribution.

The United Kingdom has also not proposed that India heads a task force. PM Modi and his British counterpart had a telephonic conversation on March 12. As per the PMO press release, the two leaders spoke about India-UK cooperation in the field of climate change and “exchanged views on COVID-19 epidemic”. India is also in talks with the United States to find strategies to tackle the crisis however, there are no reports of a joint or a global taskforce.

WION broadcast is, therefore, circulating with the false claim that the US, UK and 18 other nations want Prime Minister Modi to lead a coronavirus taskforce. There have been no such proposals or initiatives. The channel’s exaggerated narration possibly plated a part in portraying a misleading picture of India’s place in the global effort to tackle the crisis.

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