Modi to invoke Lord Rama, name plan to develop Sita's birthplace in Nepal

Modi to invoke Lord Rama, name plan to develop Sita's birthplace in Nepal

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will invoke Lord Rama as part of India's engagement with Nepal during his visit to the neighbouring country from May 11. Modi will start his tour from Janakpur – the birthplace of Sita.

The PM is likely to announce an assistance package from New Delhi for Kathmandu to preserve the heritage of Janakpur, develop infrastructure and facilities for pilgrims and tourists. Modi may also announce New Delhi's plan to link it with Ramayana Tourism Circuit of India, sources told DH.

The PM will also visit Muktinath at Thorong La mountain pass in northern Nepal. Muktinath – one of the 51 'Shakti Peethas' – is a holy place for the Hindus. It is also a sacred place for the Buddhists, as legend has it that Guru Padmasambhava meditated at this place on his way to Tibet to spread Buddhism in the 8th century.

The visits are apparently to underline India's historical and cultural links with Nepal at a time when China is working on a project with Nepal to develop Lumbini – the birthplace of Lord Buddha.

Nepal has been a theater for competition between India and China to spread geo-political influence. Though Modi's informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in central China on April 27 and 28 is being seen as a move by both India and China to mend troubled ties, New Delhi is not ready to yield geo-political space to Beijing.

New Delhi spurned Beijing's latest proposal for a China-Nepal-India economic corridor. India is more interested in working bilaterally with Nepal to develop connectivity projects, instead of joining any third country for a trilateral initiative.

Bilateral talks

Modi hosted Nepal Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli in New Delhi last month. The visit saw New Delhi promising support to build a rail link between India and the capital of Nepal. New Delhi also agreed to support the landlocked country get access to the oceans through inland waterways.

New Delhi's decision to link Kathmandu with the rail-network of India is apparently a response to Beijing's move to build a rail line connecting Lhasa and Gyirong in Tibet Autonomous Region of China with the capital of Nepal.

Oli will join Modi in Janakpur on May 11. The Prime Minister will later travel to Kathmandu and call on Nepal's President Bidhya Devi Bhandari and Vice President Nanda Kishor Pun. The two Premiers will also hold formal bilateral talks in Kathmandu.