Building on shared Hindu and Buddhist civilizational heritage, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will again reach out to Nepal when he lands at Lumbini, the birthplace of Prince Siddharth who became Buddha after enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, next Monday in a renewed effort to cement bilateral ties.
Modi will lay a foundation stone along with Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba for a Buddhist Vihara, being built with Indian assistance.
Modi will take a helicopter ride from Kushinagar International airport in Uttar Pradesh and link up the place where Buddha achieved Mahaparinirvana to the place where Prince Siddharth was born on the auspicious thrice-blessed Budh Purnima Day on May 16. This is the day when Lord Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and subsequently attained nirvana.
A firm believer in show-casing and reviving the life and preaching of Lord Buddha, PM Modi has got all the priceless relics of the great preacher in India tabulated by his own office as also directed restoration of all monuments associated with the Lord's life. Buddha delivered his first sermon in Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh and nirvana in Kushinagar.
While Modi will fly straight to the world heritage site at Lumbini, PM Deuba will come to meet him after inaugurating Nepal's second international airport at Bhairahawa, six kilometres from Lumbini, which has been built by the Chinese Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group and named after Gautam Buddha.
While PM Modi has visited Hindu shared heritage sites like Janakpur Sita Temple and Muktinath Vishnu Temple in Mustang District in Nepal during his first tenure, the May 16 visit will be his first after he was re-elected in May 2019 and completes eight years as Indian Prime Minister later this month.
It is at the historic Lumbini site that PM Modi will meet PM Deuba and give a strong push to the bilateral relationship as improving relations with Nepal has always been a very high priority for the Indian Prime Minister.
While the Nepalese Maoists and Communists along with the leftist media have tried to play India by reaching out to China, PM Modi has a positive development-oriented agenda with Nepal as part of India's Neighbourhood First policy so long as Nepalese plans do not pose a challenge to its national security, particularly in the Terai region.
PM Modi's visit to Nepal comes at a time when Sri Lanka is on the verge of a civil war, sparked off by a deep economic crisis caused by high external debt and economically unviable Chinese funded Belt Road Initiative infrastructure projects.
The sudden downturn in Sri Lanka is also a stern reminder to countries like Nepal and Pakistan, who are part of the Chinese BRI though Deuba has made it clear to Beijing that Kathmandu will only accept aid not commercial loans for infrastructure projects.