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PM Modi Visits Nepal To Mark Buddha Purnima And 'Deepen' Bilateral Ties, What's On Agenda?

PM Narendra Modi who offered his prayers at the sacred Maya Devi temple, the main site of prayers in Lumbini that is considered the birthplace of Buddha on Monday, is visiting Nepal for the fifth time.

PM Narendra Modi with Nepal PM Sher Bahadur Deuba.
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with his Nepalese counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba on Monday performed the shilanyaas ceremony for the construction of the India International Centre for Buddhist Culture and Heritage in the Lumbini Monastic Zone, Nepal on Monday. Modi also offered prayers at the sacred Maya Devi temple on the occasion of Buddha Purnima.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is visiting Nepal where he is marking Buddha Purnima at Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. Lumbini, located in the Terai plains of southern Nepal, is one of the holiest places of Buddhism

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I feel blessed to have prayed at the Maya Devi Temple on Buddha Purnima. May Lord Buddha bless us all and make our planet peaceful and prosperous. <a href="https://t.co/hLJhZlHNL1">pic.twitter.com/hLJhZlHNL1</a></p>&mdash; Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) <a href="https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/1526101762255765504?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 16, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

It will be the prime minister's fifth visit to Nepal since 2014 and the first since his reelection in 2019. He is scheduled to land in Lumbini at 10 AM (local time) and return home at around 5 PM (local time), according to Indian embassy sources.

Ahead of his visit, Modi said that the thoughts of Buddha can make our planet more peaceful, harmonious and sustainable. He tweeted, "On Buddha Purnima, we recall the principles of Lord Buddha and reiterate our commitment to fulfil them. The thoughts of Lord Buddha can make our planet more peaceful, harmonious and sustainable." 

In another statement on enhancing the bilateral ties, Modi said, "Our ties with Nepal are unparalleled. The civilisational and people-to-people contacts between India and Nepal form the enduring edifice of our close relationship. My visit is intended to celebrate and further deepen these time-honoured linkages that have been fostered through centuries and recorded in our long history of inter-mingling.”

According to Indian Embassy sources, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Foreign Secretary Kwatra, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and other senior officials will be in the Prime Minister's entourage.

Modi's Nepal visit. What's on the agenda?

After the shilanyaas ceremony, which was performed by monks belonging to three major Buddhist traditions, Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana, the two Prime Ministers also unveiled a model of the Centre.

Once completed, the Centre will be a world-class facility welcoming pilgrims and tourists from all over the world to enjoy the essence of the spiritual aspects of Buddhism.

It will be a modern building, NetZero compliant in terms of energy, water and waste handling, and will house prayer halls, meditation centers, library, exhibition hall, cafeteria, offices and other amenities.

Modi was accompanied by his Nepalese counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba and his spouse Dr Arzu Rana Deuba during his visit to the historic temple of Maya Devi.

“Beginning the Nepal visit with prayers at the sacred Maya Devi Temple, Lumbini,” the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) tweeted.

“On the auspicious occasion of Buddha Purnima, both Prime Ministers offered pooja and prayers at the sacred Mayadevi temple in Lumbini, the birth place of Gautam Buddha,” Nepal’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Twitter.

Prime Minister Modi visited the Maya Devi Temple as the first stop of his one-day visit to Lumbini, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement.

The leaders paid their respects at the Marker Stone inside the temple premises, which pinpoints the exact birth spot of Lord Buddha. They attended the pooja conducted as per Buddhist rituals.

The two Prime Ministers also lit lamps near the Ashoka Pillar located adjacent to the temple.

Thereafter, the two leaders watered the Bodhi tree sapling from Bodh Gaya which was gifted by Modi to Lumbini in 2014 and also signed the temple's visitor’s book.

"Landed in Nepal. Happy to be among the wonderful people of Nepal on the special occasion of Buddha Purnima. Looking forward to the programmes in Lumbini," Prime Minister Modi said on Twitter upon his arrival. He was received by Deuba in Lumbini.

“I would like to thank PM @SherBDeuba for the warm welcome in Lumbini,” Modi said in a tweet. Modi and his entourage arrived here on a special Indian Air Force helicopter from Kushinagar, Uttar Pradesh.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">I would like to thank PM <a href="https://twitter.com/SherBDeuba?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@SherBDeuba</a> for the warm welcome in Lumbini. <a href="https://t.co/9rkmi2297o">pic.twitter.com/9rkmi2297o</a></p>&mdash; Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) <a href="https://twitter.com/narendramodi/status/1526068897287667712?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">May 16, 2022</a></blockquote> <script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
 


On bilateral ties 

In a statement ahead of his visit, Modi said he was looking forward to meeting Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba again after their "productive" discussions during his visit to India last month.

Asked whether the boundary dispute between the two sides will figure in the talks, Kwatra said India has always maintained that the existing bilateral mechanisms are the best way forward to deliberate on the issues, adding they should be discussed in a "responsible manner" without their "politicisation".

Deuba was in Delhi last month in his first bilateral visit abroad after becoming prime minister for the fifth time in July 2021.

During the visit, which was aimed at injecting fresh momentum into bilateral ties, Deuba held talks with Modi on a number of key issues, including the boundary issue.

Nepal is important for India in the context of its overall strategic interests in the region, and the leaders of the two countries have often noted the age-old "Roti-Beti" relationship.  

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The landlocked Himalayan nation shares a border of over 1,850 kms with five Indian states - Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Nepal relies heavily on India for the transportation of goods and services.

(with PTI inputs)

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