Apart from cementing bilateral ties between New Delhi and Kathmandu further, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit will also be a message to China in the backdrop of its efforts to grow influence in the countries in India’s neighbourhood. PM Modi will pay an official visit to Lumbini in Nepal on 16 May on the occasion of Buddha Purnima.
But instead of landing at the new Gautam Buddha International Airport, which is near Lumbini, PM Modi will take a helicopter ride from Kushinagar International airport near Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh and land at the helipad inside the world heritage site directly. The Nepal government is learnt to have already built the helipad inside the heritage site at Lumbini. PM Modi will skip the international airport of Bhairahawa in Nepal in what will be a message to China as the airport has been built by Beijing. What is also important here is that the airport will be inaugurated by Nepalese
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba the same day, and the function will be attended by the Chinese diplomats as well. The airport has been built by China’s Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction Group.
Sources say that China has built this second international airport in Nepal at a place called Bhairahawa which is close to the Indian border. “What is more important is that it is not far off from the Indian Airforce base of Gorakhpur as well,” sources add. “Undoubtedly, China kept this factor in mind while choosing to work on the Bhairahawa’s airport project,” sources said. “India has been on the more alert since China started working on this project,” officials said.
What is also going to be a setback to China is that Nepal’s Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba has categorically said that now the West Seti Hydropower Project will be given to India instead of China for developing it. Deuba will discuss with PM Modi the proposal on handing over this project to India, sources said. “Some more projects will be discussed during the bilateral talks between the two prime ministers,” an official said. “China will be excluded from some of these projects, and India’s support to develop them will be sought by the Nepalese leader,” he added. Sources said Nepalese government is in touch with several Indian companies with the proposals on several projects.
PM Modi is visiting the neighbouring country at the invitation of Nepalese Prime Minister Deuba. It will be PM Modi’s fifth visit to Nepal since 2014. “At Lumbini, the Prime Minister will visit the sacred Mayadevi temple to offer prayers. The Prime Minister will also deliver an address at a Buddha Jayanti event organized by the Lumbini Development Trust under the aegis of the Government of Nepal,” the Ministry of External Affairs said. Separately, the Prime Minister will participate in the “shilanyas” (foundation stone laying) ceremony of a centre for Buddhist culture and heritage in a plot belonging to the International Buddhist Confederation (IBC), New Delhi within the Lumbini Monastic Zone, it said. Both the Prime Ministers will hold a bilateral meeting. “Prime Minister Modi’s visit continues the tradition of regular high-level exchanges between India and Nepal in furtherance of our Neighbourhood First policy,” the MEA said. “It underscores the shared civilisational heritage of the people of both countries,” it said in a statement. While PM Modi will fly straight to the world heritage site at Lumbini, PM Deuba will come to meet him after inaugurating Nepal’s second international airport at Bhairahawa.