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Modi's Lumbini visit showcases the common heritage between India and Nepal; expected to kickstart new tourism drive

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PM Modi's Lumbini visit to showcase the Buddhist Circuit- a joint heritage shared by India and Nepal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Lumbini in Nepal on the occasion of Buddha Purnima is expected to kickstart the much needed tourism driven economy on the Buddhist Circuit. The circuit comprises the main places connected with the life of Buddha starting from Lumbini in Nepal where he was born to Bodh Gaya, Nalanda and Vaishali in Bihar, Sarnath, Kushinagar, Sravasti and Kausambi in Uttar Pradesh and Kapilvastu on India-Nepal border. Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to have paid a visit to the birthplace of Buddha.

The Rs 100 billion Buddhist circuit project showcases a common heritage shared and presented by both neighbours, analysts said.

“This is a momentous occasion for Nepal, very few heads of states have come to Lumbini. This is purely a friendly visit and underscores the deepening cultural bonding between the two neighbours. The Indian PM’s visit will bring out the importance of Lumbini and this will boost tourism,” Vijay Kant Karna, Nepal’s former Ambassador to Denmark and professor of Political Science, Tribhuvan University told India Narrative.

“This not only promotes a unique sense of cultural bond but will also spur tourism in Nepal,” Karna said.

Though Modi held bilateral diplomatic talks with Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba and even signed six memoranda of understanding and agreements, Karna said that the visit assumes significance due to the deepening India Nepal ties though soft diplomacy.

Buddhists comprise 7 per cent of the total world population. Most of the Buddhists live in East and southeast Asian countries. The Buddhist circuit is not only expected to draw Buddhists but travellers across the world who are interested in history, culture or religion. The cities connected on this iconic route are over 2500 years old. These places are considered the most significant for all Buddhists.

“Shared religious and cultural ties feed exponential economic growth. The present ruling party BJP under leadership of PM Modi stands a unique chance to grow bilateral relations of India and Nepal holistically,” Navita Srikant, foreign policy expert, who has been focusing on Nepal, told India Narrative that while such circuits also serve as economic centres, in this case a unique dimension will be added to the bilateral ties between India and Nepal.

The International Finance Corporation in a report said that the rationale for investing in the Buddhist Circuit is to improve the experience of visiting these sites and link that to the potential of tourism to deliver sustainable and inclusive economic growth through job creation and income generation opportunities for micro and small enterprises. This will also help in growing a related tax base. For India, and especially Bihar and Uttar Pradesh –two of India’s most populous states – accessing these benefits is vital for growth, it said.

Last year, Modi inaugurated the Kushinagar International Airport in UP with the landing of a SriLankan Airlines flight from Colombo that brought over 100 Buddhist monks and dignitaries.

Also read: PM Modi kicks off Nepal visit with prayers at historic Maya Devi temple in Lumbini

Modi's Lumbini visit in Nepal is far from being just symbolic