Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming Nepal visit does not include Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha and Janakpur, the capital of Ramayan-era king Janak.
Informing the Legislature-Parliament about the visit of Modi, Nepal’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Mahendra Bahadur Pandey said Lumbini and Janakpur have been omitted from the itinerary citing security reasons.
“The government does not have bullet proof vehicles and therefore, cannot provide high-level security,” Minister Pandey told a meeting of the House’s Foreign Affairs Committee today.
“As for the existing bullet proof vehicles, some of them are punctured, while some are not in good condition. In such a situation, we cannot take risk arranging visit for Lumbini and Janakpur.”
“We have further received information that the weather condition would deteriorate on the day Indian PM Modi’s visit was planned for Lumbini and Janakpur,” the Minister added.
The Members of Parliament (MPs), however, have expressed dissatisfaction over the reply of Minister Pandey.
“It is a national shame that the government has cancelled Lumbini and Janakpur trips putting forth security reasons,” said MP Som Prasad Pandey.
Another MP Min Biswokarma suspected Minister Pandey’s reasoning. He said: “A replica of Lumbini has been constructed in Bihar. India has been publicized as the birthplace of Buddha. In this context, Nepal would have to arrange a visit of Modi to the original Lumbini that lies in Nepal, at any cost.”
Some foreign affairs experts, however, dismiss such suspicions.
“The Indian government has not officially declared that Lumbini lies in India. It is necessary to focus on how Modi’s visit can be made fruitful instead of mulling on why Modi did not visit Lumbini and Janakpur,” says Professor Khadga KC, Chief at the Tribhuvan University’s International Relations and Diplomacy Department.
“Instead of keeping our rivers on hold, we also need to use them for our national interest.”
In the 26-point agreement reached by Nepal-India Joint Commission, most of the aspects are positive, KC says. “However, Nepal supporting India in the UN may weaken the perception that Nepal can take its own decision at the international level.”
Indian PM Modi is arriving in Kathmandu on August 3, Sunday, on a two-day official bilateral visit to Nepal. On the first day, he will address the Parliament and meet the President and Prime Minister of Nepal.
On the second day on August 4, Monday, the Indian Premier is scheduled to pay tributes to the highly revered Hindu temple of Paushpatinath and offer a special ritual (pooja) to Lord Shiva, the supreme God in Hinduism.
On the second day, Modi was scheduled to visit Lumbini and Janakpur, too.
Meanwhile, the Nepali and Indian intelligence and plainclothes security personnel have increased security vigils in Kathmandu valley, according to sources.
Officials of the Special Protection Group that is responsible for the security of Indian PM and former Indian PMs have just left Kathmandu, while another group has already started coordination with Nepali security officials, added the sources. “The Indian security personnel have increased vigils in restaurants, hotels and other places, where the VVIPs often come and go.”
“Mr Modi is the executive head of a rising superpower. The wide presence of plainclothes Indian security personnel could be a way to re-emphasize this fact,” observes Professor KC.