PM Modi to visit Lumbini in Nepal for Buddha Purnima, bypassing airport built by China

Instead of flying to Gautam Buddha International Airport, also known as Bhairahawa airport, he is taking a helicopter from Kushinagar international airport in India directly to Lumbini
PM Narendra Modi (Photo | PTI)
PM Narendra Modi (Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to visit the Mayadevi temple at Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, on May 16 which happens to be Buddha Purnima.

However, instead of flying to Gautam Buddha International Airport, also known as Bhairahawa airport (12 miles from Lumbini), he is taking a helicopter from Kushinagar international airport in India directly to Lumbini for which the Nepalese government has made helipads inside the premises of the World Heritage Site.

"It is possible that since the Bhairahawa airport has been made by China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group, India is keeping its distance from the inauguration which happens to be on the same day," a foreign policy expert from Nepal told The New Indian Express, adding that some Chinese officials are expected to take part in the inauguration of the airport.

PM Modi is likely to speak at the Buddha Memorial Ceremony organised by the Lumbini Development Trust and also lay the foundation stone of a Buddhist monastery that will be made with India’s support.

Meanwhile, the opening of more cross border routes from India to Nepal is likely to figure in the talks between PM Modi and PM Deuba.

"Airports in Nepal won’t be viable if more routes between India and Nepal aren’t permitted. It has been a long-standing demand from Nepal and we hope when the two PMs meet there will be some breakthrough. Janakpur, Nepalgung and Mahendranagar are some of the airports Nepal hopes to connect with India," the expert added.

Many Nepalese consider PM Modi's overflying the new airport a diplomatic failure on behalf of the Nepalese government.

"Our government should have made more efforts to bring PM Modi to fly into Lumbini. Nepal is tilting favourably towards India and we should have stepped up our efforts," said the expert.

This will be PM Modi’s fifth visit to Nepal since 2014. The last Ambassador of India to Nepal, Vinay Mohan Kwatra, has become India’s Foreign Secretary and the position in Nepal is vacant. There is talk of Navin Srivastava being his replacement in Nepal, though the MEA hasn’t issued a formal note yet.

Meanwhile, PM Deuba is likely to hold talks with PM Modi for development of the West Seti Hydropower Project.

While addressing a gathering in his hometown Dadheldhura on Tuesday, Deuba had said that he would discuss the West Seti project with PM Modi.

"Since India is reluctant to purchase energy produced by Chinese companies in Nepal, we will talk with Modi for the engagement of Indian developers for this project," PM Deuba told the gathering at his hometown.

PM Deuba also said that he would revive talks with India to develop the Pancheshwar multipurpose project too.

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