When Narendra Modi travels to Nepal on August 3 and 4, he would not only be the first Indian PM to pay a bilateral official visit to Kathmandu in 17 years. He may even step out of the capital and travel to Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, and Janakpur, where according to myth, Lord Ram and Sita (who was also called Janaki) wed.
Three top Nepali leaders, one high-level Indian diplomat, and a BJP source confirmed to HT that the visit to these two sites is being discussed seriously.
Several leaders of the Tarai region have lobbied with the Indian government that a visit to Janakpur be included. During a lunch meeting with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who is in Kathmandu, on Saturday, senior minister and Janakpur MP Bhimalendra Nidhi too made the proposal.
A Tarai leader told HT, “Janakpur symbolises the special religious, cultural and civilisational connect between our countries. It is also close to the open border we share.” If the visit happens, there may be a public reception for Modi and India may announce an assistance package for the Janaki temple.
There have been several efforts in the past to develop and connect Lumbini as part of the broader Buddhist circuit, which would include Kushinagar, Sarnath and Gaya. A Chinese NGO too had announced its intention to invest in developing the Lumbini region, at the India-Nepal border, which raised eyebrows among sections in the Indian security establishment. Modi’s possible visit to the site would reaffirm India’s special interest in the region, as well as the special ‘civilisational links’.
But an Indian diplomatic source put in a cautionary note and said this is ‘not final’ yet. “There are two concerns. One is whether the weather would permit it, and the other is whether there is enough time.” Modi already has a packed schedule in Kathmandu, where he would address the Nepali Parliament, meet the president, PM, and the entire spectrum of the Nepali leadership, and pay a visit to Pashupati Nath temple on the fourth Monday of shravan, August 4th.