India and Sri Lanka will jointly set up the first international Buddhist University near Sanchi to boost cultural and educational ties.
Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the visiting Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, on Sunday met Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa to discuss the setting up of the university.
"After my meeting with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa and other leaders, we have decided on setting up a Buddhist University in a 65 acre land in the Buddhist Sanchi near Madhya Pradesh capital Bhopal", Chauhan said.
Giving details, Chauhan said this would be a joint venture involving the Government of India, the Sri Lankan government, the Madhya Pradesh government and the Mahabodhi society.
He said the state government has decided to provide 25 million Sri Lankan rupees for the purpose and would draw up the plans for setting up of the university soon.
The proposal was mooted during the visit of former Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake on October 31 last year in Sanchi.
Chauhan said his government would connect the seven important Buddhist circuits in the state through infrastructure of international standards to enable Sri Lankan and other Buddhist tourists to visit the sites.
On his meeting with Rajapaksa, Chauhan said: "The relations between Sri Lanka and India have been strong. Our state government is also proposing to send a trade delegation to the Island nation to widen the scope of bilateral economic cooperation."
Chauhan said Rajapaksa had agreed for setting up of a steering committee comprising of all the stakeholders to give shape to the decision to set up the university.
The President also agreed to consider direct flights between Colombo and Bhopal, once the airport in the state capital is given international airport status.
The Chief Minister said Bhopal airport is expected to get international rating by the end of the year. Besides this, an airstrip will also be laid in Sanchi for charter planes, he said.
The proposed Buddhist university is expected to be affiliated to the one being run by the Sri Lanka Mahabodhi Society in Sri Lanka, according to a report.
Meanwhile, Chauhan said Buddhist countries like Japan and Korea are also proposed to be involved in affairs of the University to give it an comprehensive international status.
Madhya Pradesh will also hold a Sri Lanka Week later this year in Sanchi and had invited the Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa and Prime Minister DM Jayaratne on the occasion.