Boost for Buddhist pilgrimage: Foreign dignitaries hail Kushinagar airport inauguration
Lucknow, Oct 20: Sri Lanka's minister of youth and sports Namal Rajapaksa said it was a "great honour" for him and his delegation to be on the first flight that landed at the Kushinagar International Airport in Uttar Pradesh, inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday.
''Tourism between India and Sri Lanka has always been very robust. We have a lot of Indians coming to Sri Lanka and also Sri Lankan pilgrims coming to different states (in India), especially Varanasi, Prime Minister's constituency,'' Rajapaksa told reporters at the inauguration event.
''So now we believe that opening up Kushinagar will increase the number of pilgrims (coming to India) from Sri Lanka and also Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world,'' the Sri Lankan Cabinet minister said.
Ambassador of Thailand to India Pattarat Hongtong said the Kushinagar airport will improve tourism between the two countries and facilitate Buddhist travellers.
Ambassador of Vietnam to India Pham Sanh Chau also said that the Kushinagar Airport will give a boost to the numbers of Buddhist tourists visiting India.
"Opening of Kushinagar International Airport is very encouraging, especially for Buddhist devotees, to visit Kushinagar and Lumbini in Nepal too. It will facilitate international travellers & Buddhist devotees to visit Buddhist pilgrimage sites," said Ananda Prasad Sharma, Minister Counsel of Nepal.
"It will greatly help pilgrims from Myanmar to visit Kushinagar as majority of our people are Buddhists. It's a very important Buddhist Circuit site. Now they can directly come to Kushinagar. It'll bring convenience," said Moe Kyaw Aung, Ambassador of Myanmar to India.
"Wonderful development, it will give opportunity for Buddhist nations to come conveniently to most sacred place where Lord Buddha entered into parinirvana. It will make Buddhist Circuit tourism convenient," said Maj Gen Vetsop Namgyel,Bhutan's Ambassador to India.
"Hope it'll help tourism b/w India and other countries. India-Japan has deep cultural ties, Buddhsim came to Japan from India, we're strategic and special partners. Hope cultural ties will be further strengthened." said Dy Chief of Mission,Japanese Embassy in India.
The Kushinagar airport has been built at an estimated cost of Rs 260 crore and will facilitate domestic and international pilgrims to visit the 'mahaparinirvana' site of Lord Buddha and is an endeavour to connect the Buddhist pilgrimage holy sites around the world, according to the Prime Minister's Office.