Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday arrived in Nepal for a long-day visit to Lumbini on the occasion of Buddha Purnima.
PM Modi was received by Nepalese PM Sher Bahadur Deuba. PM Modi and his counterpart Deuba held bilateral talks after a series of events. In a statement before his visit, the PM said, “I also look forward to meeting Prime Minister Deuba again after our productive discussions during his visit to India last month. We will continue to build on our shared understanding to expand cooperation in multiple areas, including in hydropower, development, and connectivity.”
Mero Tribune talks with Ranjit Rae, former India’s Ambassador to Hungary, Vietnam, and Nepal, regarding Modi’s Nepal visit and Nepal-India’s relationship-
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Lumbini in Nepal to coincide with Buddha Purnima. It may look purely like a religious one but does it hold strategic and political significance?
Indian Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Nepal is a very significant one. Not only does it reflect our shared civilizational heritage but also a commitment to developing the Buddhist Circuit between India and Nepal.
As I say in my article in The Hindu today, the visit will also put to rest the unnecessary controversy that rages about the birthplace of the Buddha. The visit also demonstrates the significance that we attach to our cooperation with Nepal; it comes a few weeks after a very productive visit by PM Sher Bahadur Deuba to India and is another opportunity to deepen and enhance the bilateral relationship.
Do you think this visit will strengthen Nepal’s soft culture power?
It is estimated there are half a billion Buddhists in the world; several countries in Asia are Buddhist nations. It is a surging tradition even in some communist countries. The development of the Buddhist circuit will not only bring prosperity and jobs to the region as tourism increases but will also develop the soft power of both Nepal and India.
How is the Indian foreign policy establishment looking at Nepal right now?
Nepal occupies a very important place in Indian foreign policy, particularly in our Neighbourhood First policy. This is reflected in the frequency of high-level bilateral visits and the far-reaching agreements signed in the fields of energy cooperation, connectivity, and infrastructure development. But our relationship, which is very close, even intimate, needs to be nurtured constantly; both sides have to be sensitive to the other’s aspirations, concerns, and interests. This is where high-level political interaction helps.
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Ranjit Rae is former India’s Ambassador to Hungary, Vietnam, and Nepal. He is an Indian diplomat with over 30 years of experience in the Indian Foreign Service, which includes participation in complex negotiations both at bilateral and multilateral levels and extensive work in conflict areas/crisis situations.