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Nepal: Preparations in Lumbini ahead of Prime Minister Modi’s visit

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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to visit Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha in Nepal, on May 16. The visit takes place on the occasion of Buddha Purnima. PM Modi will offer prayers at the holy Mayadevi Temple. He will also participate in the foundation laying ceremony of the Center for Buddhist Culture and Heritage. The center is under construction with help from India.

To welcome PM Modi, signs were erected all along the highway leading to Lumbini. Prime Minister Modi will meet his Nepali counterpart Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in Lumbini. The two will have bilateral talks.

Nepal has always been a very high priority for PM Modi. This will be the Prime Minister’s fifth visit to Nepal since 2014. Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Nepal comes at a time of rapidly changing geopolitical dynamics and even Kathmandu has seen a division of opinion on Belt and Road issues Initiative (BIS) .

Nevertheless, the visit offers a huge opportunity for Nepal. With tourism being the mainstay of Nepal’s economy, religious tourists are the major contributors to the hilly nation’s industry. Not only has it generated thousands of jobs, but it has also promoted Nepali culture, lifestyle and traditions. Nepal has a lot to offer tourists, from the high Himalayas to the jungles of the Tarai Plains teeming with wildlife, and from the scenic grandeur of its hills to the rich cultural heritage of its people.

Yet tourism has not been able to make a significant contribution to its gross domestic product (GDP). Unlike Nepal, Tanzania, for example, attracts far more tourists to its safaris and Mount Kilimanjaro, raking in a remarkable $2.5 billion a year. India is making a significant investment in infrastructure to set up the Buddhist religious circuit. Investments are directed towards connectivity, tackling the shortage of hotels and also the problems of cleanliness and safety, as well as the creation of amenities along the stretch of the transnational circuit.

There is plenty of room for greater cooperation between India and Nepal in promotion, marketing and capacity building in the tourism industry.

This may require establishing common tourism standards and formulating a common marketing strategy such as creating a brand, developing a common website for promotion, etc. engine not only of economic growth but also of bilateral relations.

(With agency contributions)

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