A delegation of Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka will visit Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh to deepen people-to-people linkages

In a first of its kind virtual bilateral summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held discussions with the Prime Minister of Sri Lanka Mahinda Rajapaksa and announced a grant assistance of $15 million to strengthen the Buddhist ties between both sides.

“Glad to announce a $15 million grant to promote Buddhist ties between India & Sri Lanka. Lord Buddha’s teachings have continued to guide us for ages. India would be delighted to host Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka on the first inaugural flight to Kushinagar International Airport,” Prime Minister Modi tweeted after the meeting on September 26.

The grant will assist in deepening people-to-people linkages between the two countries in the sphere of Buddhism including inter alia through construction and renovation of Buddhist monasteries, capacity development, cultural exchanges, archaeological cooperation, reciprocal exposition of The Buddha’s relics, strengthening engagement of Buddhist scholars and clergy.

Both sides agreed that the Indian side would facilitate the visit of a delegation of Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka in the first inaugural flight to Kushinagar. The Kushinagar Airport was designated as an international airport recently recognizing its importance as a Buddhist site.

Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site, where Buddhists believe Gautama Buddha attained Parinirvana (nirvana after death). It is an international Buddhist pilgrimage center. The followers of Buddhism, especially from Asian countries, wish to visit this place at least once in their lifetime.

The announcement was warmly welcomed by the Sri Lankan Prime Minister. He took to his Twitter and said, “I thank PM @narendramodi for the grant of $15 million to promote Buddhist ties between both our nations. In steps to further strengthen these ties, a new flight destination will commence from #Kushinagar, the sacred Buddhist city, to lka.”

India and Sri Lanka’s friendship is more than 2,500 years old and is strengthened by the gift of Buddhism. It is known that Sri Lanka was amongst the first countries after India where Buddhism started spreading its roots. The Buddhist traditions are still alive in Sri Lanka.

Under its Neighborhood First policy, India accords special priority to Sri Lanka and the ties between both sides have furthered beyond Buddhism, in the field of trade and investment, and development.

During the meeting, Prime Minister Modi said, “The relations between India and Sri Lanka are thousands of years old. According to my government’s neighborhood first policy and SAGAR doctrine, we give special priority to relations between the two countries.”

In line with the current COVID-19 situation, both leaders discussed the economic dimension of the challenges posed by the pandemic. They acknowledged the need for close coordination on issues such as trade and investment including the facilitation of an enabling environment for economic enterprises for both sides as well as deepening the integration of supply chains for mutual benefits.

India and Sri Lanka have been working to strengthen bilateral financial cooperation for many years. India has already provided a US$400 million currency swap facility to the Central Bank of Sri Lanka to assist with economic recovery and to tackle the Covid-19 related disruptions.

Furthermore, both leaders agreed to continue the successful Indian housing projects and instructed the officials to fast track the construction of 10,000 houses in the plantation sector.

Both leaders also agreed to strengthen cooperation in the areas of agriculture, animal husbandry, science and technology, health care, and Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha, and Homoeopathy (AYUSH) as well as skill development by increased training of professionals thereby realizing the full potential of the demographic dividend in both the countries.