New Delhi, Sep 26 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday announced a grant assistance of USD 15 million for the promotion of Buddhist ties between India and Sri Lanka to further enhance bilateral cultural links.
The prime minister made the announcement during a virtual summit with his Sri Lankan counterpart Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Joint Secretary (Indian Ocean Region) in Ministry of External Affairs Amit Narang said both leaders were unanimous that the ancient cultural links between India and Sri Lanka are 'special and must be nurtured' further.
In the talks, Rajapaksa noted that sports can act as a bridge to further enhance people-to-people ties and specifically mentioned cricket in this regard.
'Testifying to the long-standing civilisational links and cultural heritage, Prime Minister Modi announced a grant assistance of USD 15 million for the promotion of Buddhist ties between the two countries,' Narang said at a media briefing.
He said the grant will assist in deepening people-to-people linkages between the two countries through cultural exchanges, archaeological cooperation, reciprocal exposition of Lord Buddha's relics and strengthening Buddhist scholarship.
Narang said the funds could be used for the construction and renovation of Buddhist monasteries and supporting the clergy.
It was agreed that the Indian side would facilitate the visit of a delegation of Buddhist pilgrims from Sri Lanka in the first inaugural flight to the sacred city of Kushinagar.
Kushinagar airport in Uttar Pradesh was designated as an international airport recently, recognising its importance as a Buddhist site.
In the talks, Narang said, Rajapaksa made a special mention of the Jaffna cultural centre which is an iconic project built with Indian assistance.
'The centre is almost ready and Rajapaksa extended an invitation to Prime Minister Modi to inaugurate it,' he said.
A joint statement issued after the Modi-Rajapaksa talks said the Sri Lankan leader welcomed the announcement made by Modi on India’s grant assistance of USD 15 million for the promotion of Buddhist ties.
It said both sides agreed to facilitate tourism by enhancing connectivity and early establishment of an air bubble between the two countries to resume travel. PTI MPB RT RT