India invokes Lord Buddha to boost ties with BIMSTEC nations

India has invoked Lord Buddha to give a boost to its ties with other members of the BIMSTEC - a bloc it wants to promote as an alternative to the troubled Saarc.

New Delhi is hosting the Bodhi Parva: BIMSTEC Festival of Buddhist Heritage as part of the celebrations of 20th anniversary of the seven-nation bloc. Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma inaugurated the festival.

The BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), which came into existence in 1997, comprises Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.

The bloc has five of the eight members of the Saarc Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Nepal. Only three SAARC members - Pakistan, Afghanistan and Maldives - are not members of the BIMSTEC.

Sharma said that the bodhi parva had entwined various threads of the Buddhist heritage into a beautiful melange, including an exhibition of international and Indian Buddhist art and architecture, discourses by eminent scholars and practitioners of Buddhism, guided meditation and chanting by Buddhist monks and choir, screening of a film on Buddhism, dance and music performances, quiz show and a food trail.

These would help in building an awareness of BIMSTEC's rich and common heritage, he added. Sharma said that India saw BIMSTEC as a natural platform to fulfil its key foreign policy priorities of "Neighbourhood First" and "Act East".

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