Asia

Modi leverages soft power of Buddhism to woo allies

NEW DELHI: Projecting Indias centrality to Buddhist thought and reaching out to pilgrims and tourists seeking to connect with Buddhist heritage sites in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi deployed a soft power political exercise on Saturday while addressing a virtual gathering on “Dhamma Chakra Diwas” to mark Buddhas first sermon at Sarnath.
The International Buddhist Confederations event saw Modi making an outreach, as he has before on occasions like Vesak Day, to the Buddhist world — one more area where China and India compete for influence. The event was hosted by the culture ministry at Rashtrapati Bhavan and saw virtual participation of leaders from major Buddhist countries, including Japan, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, and Nepal, barring China. Apart from Tibetan Buddhists who participated in the celebrations, the Dalai Lama also made a video address at the Dhammachakra Pravartan celebration.
On the one hand, while China has invested extensively in infrastructure to cultivate Buddhist leaders, Modi has also relied on regular references to the Buddhist tradition and sites in India and Sri Lanka, apart from participating in the culture ministrys Buddha Jayanti event earlier this year. Organisations like IBC have helped develop, in a more formalised fashion, Indias connections with leading Buddhist leaders in east Asia and other parts of the world.
Inviting Buddhist pilgrims and tourists to India, the PM highlighted the governments efforts to provide better connectivity of Buddhist sites. “We in India have many such (Buddhist) sites. You know how people also know my parliamentary constituency of Varanasi — as home to Sarnath. We want to focus on connectivity to Buddhist sites. A few days back, the Indian cabinet announced that Kushinagar airport will be an international one. This would bring so many people, pilgrims and tourists. It would also generate economic opportunities,” he said.
Modi joined President Ram Nath Kovind in emphasising the continued relevance ofRead More – Source