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How Modi’s visit to Lumbini aims to curb Dragon’s growing shadow over Nepal


Besides Nepal’s strategic importance, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit has deep religious significance

India’s external relations are changing rapidly and for the better. Over the past few months, Delhi has witnessed a wave of visits by dignitaries from Japan, US, UN, UK etc. and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s successful trip to Europe where he met the senior leaders of Germany, the Nordic countries and France.

India is now in a position to assert its own foreign policy, its own priorities and its own interests. While being ready to work for the global good, Delhi has kept a balanced view of the events unfolding in the world, especially in Ukraine. But neighbors are neighbors, and their importance must be emphasized again and again. Prime Minister Modi’s one-day trip to Lumbini should be seen in this context.

Lumbini’s visit

Lumbini is located a few kilometers from the Indian border; the border town of Sonauli in the Maharajganj district of Uttar Pradesh is just an hour’s drive from Lumbini and the Nautanwa railway station just a few kilometers away. Nothing could illustrate the ‘neighborhood first’ policy better than a visit to the birthplace of the Buddha.

Prime Minister Modi holds bilateral talks with Nepali Prime Minister in Lumbini. Twitter/@MEAIndia

A few years ago, to a question in the Rajya Sabha, the Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs, V Muraleedharan, explained the policy of his government:[The] The government is committed to developing friendly and mutually beneficial relations with all its neighbours… Our engagement with these countries is based on a consultative, non-reciprocal and results-oriented approach, which focuses on delivering benefits such as greater connectivity, improved infrastructure, enhanced development cooperation. in various sectors, security and wider interpersonal contacts.

Nepal is important to India in the above areas but also strategically and spiritually.

The importance of Nepal

Remember Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s prophetic letter on Tibet written in November 1950, one month after the Roof of the World invasion (and less than five weeks before Sardar died). The then Deputy Prime Minister wrote: “I am sure that the Chinese and their inspiration, the Soviet Union, would miss no opportunity to exploit these weak points. [Bhutan and Nepal], partly in support of their ideology and partly in support of their ambitions. In my view, we can afford neither complacency nor hesitation. We must have a clear idea of ​​what we wish to achieve and also the methods by which we should achieve it. Any hesitation or lack of decision in formulating our goals or in pursuing our policies to achieve those goals can only weaken us and increase the threats that are so evident.

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India has had no choice but to be close to Nepal and Bhutan, despite the difficulties that arise from time to time (the recent redrawing by Nepal of the map of the trijunction with Tibet, near of Lipulekh is an example).

An article in mother india, a Mumbai-based publication, comes out at the same time. KD Sethna, the editor, wrote (after Sri Aurobindo had checked and corrected the draft): “Let’s not flinch that Tibet is mainly useful to China as a gateway to India. Sooner or later, people will try to threaten us. Where exactly along the 1,300 miles of the new frontier will come the thrust, it is too early to tell. But Nepal, with sixteen railways leading directly to India from its borders, seems like the most likely target. There may not be a direct attack at first, as the Gurkhas are great fighters though their fighting ability may not weigh against overwhelming numbers and better equipment. What is more likely is a communist penetration of existing popular movements, an escalation of internal unrest dividing the political structure as well as the soldiers, and then one side appealing to China for help.

This is precisely what has happened over the years, so much so that when an Indian political leader was recently seen in a Kathmandu pub, many thought his companion was the Chinese ambassador because, these lately, most observers believed that Beijing had become the real ruler.

It was also this imbalance that Modi sought to change by restoring Nepal as India’s closest neighbor and friend and Gautam Buddha was the best link to illustrate this.

Religious significance

Besides Nepal’s strategic importance, the Prime Minister’s visit has a deeply religious significance. In a tweet, the Prime Minister said; “On Buddha Purnima, we recall the principles of Lord Buddha and reiterate our commitment to fulfilling them. Lord Buddha’s thoughts can make our planet more peaceful, harmonious and sustainable.

The Prime Minister, accompanied by the Prime Minister of Nepal, Bahadur Deuba, and his wife, attended the 2566th celebration of Buddha Jayanti at the Lumbini International Convention Center and Meditation Hall.

A statement from the GDP said: “The two Prime Ministers addressed the approximately 2,500 attendees, including monks, Buddhist scholars and international participants.”

How Modi’s visit to Lumbini aims to curb Dragon’s growing shadow over Nepal

PM Modi offers prayers at Maya Devi Temple, Lumbini. Twitter/@narendramodi

Modi had previously offered prayers at the Mahaparinirvana Stupa in Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh, from where he boarded a helicopter for a short trip to Lumbini. In a tweet, the Prime Minister said, “Our government is making a lot of efforts to strengthen the infrastructure in Kushinagar so that more tourists and pilgrims can come here.”

While in Lumbini, the two prime ministers executed the shilanyaas ceremony for the construction of the Indian International Center for Buddhist Culture and Heritage in the monastic area of ​​Lumbini.

As communist China, an atheist country, tries to become the leader of the Buddhist world while persecuting the Buddhist population in Tibet, it is good news that India and Nepal are getting closer. “I had the privilege of visiting Lumbini, the sacred birthplace of Lord Buddha, in Nepal, a friend from India,” noted Modi who called his experience unforgettable: “The place where Lord Buddha itself is born, the energy there, the consciousness there, it’s a different feeling.

He specifically addressed India’s neighbour: “Nepal means, the country with the highest mountain in the world — Sagarmatha [Mt Everest]! Nepal means, the country of many holy pilgrimages, temples and monasteries in the world! Nepal means the country which preserves the ancient civilizational culture of the world! When I come to Nepal, I have a spiritual experience unlike any other political visit.

Modi concluded by talking about common heritage, common culture, common faith and common love: “It is our greatest asset. And, the richer this asset is, the more effectively we can together bring the message of Lord Buddha to the world and give direction to the world.

The Prime Minister called the message special “because [Lord Buddha] not only preached, but made humanity feel the knowledge. He dared to abandon the great glorious kingdom and the comforts. True, he was not born as an ordinary child. But he made us realize that sacrifice is more important than achievement. Realization is complete only through renunciation… Lord Buddha showed us the path he himself had traveled.

It was definitely a message to communist China.

China’s Attempt to Rule the Buddhist World

A few days before the Prime Minister’s visit was announced, reports circulated on social media that China’s selected Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, would visit Lumbini.

The information seemed wrong, as it was doubtful that China would bring its protege to Nepal (and in particular Lumbini) at the time of Modi’s visit, but it is symptomatic of the fact that Beijing is trying by all means to lead the movement. global buddhist.

Already in May 2019, Gyaltsen Norbu made a trip outside of China, attending religious events in Thailand. Reuters reported then: “Although officially an atheist, China chose Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama in 1995 with the aim of winning the hearts and minds of Tibetans. Tibet’s current spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing calls a dangerous separatist, had announced his own choice of a six-year-old boy, but he was taken away by authorities and has since disappeared from public view.

China Information Service noted that the Chinese Panchen Lama had arrived in Thailand and while in Bangkok, “he gave a speech at a Buddhist university and attended other Buddhist events and religious exchanges. The visit made him even more aware of the greatness of the homeland [China] and the Chinese Communist Party”.

This time, China did not risk exposing the young lama to global media. You never know, he might have defected to Nepal, probably being dissatisfied with the treatment of his own compatriots in Tibet.

Despite China’s generous promises to invest $3 billion in Lumbini, funding the nearby Gautam Buddha International Airport (Modi refused to land at this airport built by the Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group of China) , and the commitment to bring a railway line to Lumbini, it is impossible for China to rival the ancient kinship between Nepal and India. Modi’s visit was about that.

And on the side of Nepal, Kathmandu does not want to be caught in a Sri Lankan type financial crisis. India’s friendship is therefore all the more important.

The author is a renowned author, journalist, historian, Tibetologist and scholar of China. The opinions expressed are personal.

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