Prime Minister Modi flew by helicopter from an Indian airport to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, skipping the inauguration of a new nearby airport by Nepal due to China construct.
Prime Minister of Nepal Sher Bahadur Deuba on May 16 attended the opening ceremony of the airport in Bhairahawa, the nearest city to the country. Lumbini, according to AFP. Service project travel Buddhism, valued at $76 million, is funded by the Asian Development Bank and the OPEC International Development Fund, but built by China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Corporation.
On the same day, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi was present at Lumbini to attend events on the occasion of the Buddha’s birthday, along with his Nepalese counterpart. However, Mr. Modi flew directly from an Indian airport to Lumbini by helicopter, ignoring the inauguration of a new neighboring airport just a few kilometers away.
The incident reflects the influence competition in Nepal of two Asian “big guys” – China and India.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (right) and his wife Nepali Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba attended the event in Lumbini on May 16.
Nepal is pursuing policy balance between New Delhi and Beijing, but analysts believe India’s influence over Kathmandu has waned as China invests heavily in the Himalayan nation.
Indian Foreign Minister Vinay Mohan Kwatra said on May 13 that he could not comment on the logistics of Prime Minister Modi’s trip, when asked about plans to fly directly to Lumbini, skipping the inauguration of the airport in Bhairahawa. Mr Kwatra said it was “related to many factors, including security issues”.
The airport in Bhairahawa is Nepal’s second international airport after Kathmandu. According to the director of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, Pradeep Adhikari, the airport in the capital Nepal is operating at full capacity.
“Nepal air passengers are increasing every day… we cannot add more flights in Kathmandu. So we hope this new airport will be able to handle those flights and passengers.” , he said.
The new airport can handle two million passengers a year and is expected to give pilgrims easy access to one of Buddhism’s holiest sites.
Lumbini, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in western Nepal, welcomes thousands of pilgrims each year. Nepal plans to establish direct flights between Lumbini and countries with important Buddhist communities, such as CambodiaThailand, Laos, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and India.