Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday inaugurated the Kushinagar International Airport in UP with the landing of a SriLankan Airlines flight from Colombo that brought over 100 Budhist monks and dignitaries to the city of Lord Buddha's Mahaparinirvana in Uttar Pradesh.
The representatives from all major countries practising Buddhism were present at the Kushinagar inauguration function, including those from Myanmar, Vietnam, Cambodia, Bhutan, Thailand and Nepal.
The airport is aimed at boosting tourism on the Buddhist circuit, as the ancient city of Kushinagar is the final resting place of Gautama Buddha, where he attained Mahaparinirvana after his death.
Addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister said that India is the centre of the faith of Buddhist society around the world. He termed the facility of Kushinagar International Airport, launched today as a tribute to their devotion.
The Prime Minister said, “This region is witness to the entire journey from the enlightenment of Lord Buddha to Mahaparinirvana. Today this important region is getting directly connected to the world, he said.
"Kushinagar International Airport is the result of decades of aspiration and effort. My happiness is two-fold today. This is also the moment of fulfilling a commitment towards the people of Purvanchal," said PM Modi.
Sri Lankan sports minister Namal Rajapaksa, who is the son of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, appreciated PM Modi's “gesture” of inviting SriLankan airlines to be the first international carrier at Kushinagar airport.
Prime Minister Modi said the development of Kushinagar is a priority for the Uttar Pradesh government as well as the Centre. To this end, special attention is being given to develop the places associated with Lord Buddha, improve connectivity and create facilities for Buddhist devotees.
He further informed that low-cost carrier SpiceJet would be starting a direct flight between Delhi and Kushinagar in a matter of weeks.
The Prime Minister announced that under the UDAN scheme air connectivity in the country had already improved as more than 900 new routes have been approved in the last few years. Air service has already started on more than 350 routes. Besides, more than 50 new airports or those which were not in service earlier, have been made operational.The Prime Minister highlighted the development regarding the aviation sector in Uttar Pradesh as air connectivity is constantly improving in the state. In Uttar Pradesh, 8 airports are already functional before Kushinagar airport.
The Prime Minister also said that the recently launched PM Gatishakti – National Master Plan will not only improve governance but also ensure that all modes of transport such as road, rail, air etc should support each other and increase each other's capacity.
PM Modi also participated in an event marking Abhidhamma Day at the Mahaparinirvana Temple after which he attended a public function to inaugurate and lay the foundation stone of various development projects in Kushinagar.
UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Governor Anandiben Patel, and Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia were present at the inauguration ceremony.