COLOMBO: Giving a new look to Islamic Pakistan in keeping with changing times, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be breaking a time honoured religious taboo to visit Sri Lanka’s holiest Buddhist shrine, the Temple of the Sacred Tooth at Kandy, when he is in the island nation on an official visit between January 4 and 6.
However, the ice had been broken way back in December 2010 itself, when the then Pakistani President, Asif Zardari, responded favourably to a request from the then Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to send the Buddhist relics of Gandhara for exhibition in Lanka. In June 2011, the Director of General of Archeology, Pakistan, Dr Fazal Dad Kakar brought down the Gandhara relics to Lanka. Pakistani High Commissioner Seema Ilahi Baloch ceremonially presented a casket containing the relics to monks of the Bodhigyana Kapuwa temple at Kaduwela near Colombo. Not to be outdone, India brought the Kapilavastu relics to Lanka in August 2012.
Pakistan is clearly keen on using its Buddhist past to promote ties with Sri Lanka with which it has been having excellent relations on account of its unstinted military support to the island nation during its 30 years war against Tamil separatists. During his current visit, Nawaz Sharif will be signing 10 agreements to promote trade and investment. There will be an agreement to monitor money laundering and terror financing also.