Spiritual diplomacy in Nepal: Modi, Oli flags off Janakpur-Ayodhya bus service

JANAKPUR: Blending diplomatic outreach with spiritual bonding, Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his two-day visit to Nepal with prayers at the Janakpuri temple located in the birthplace of Sita, revered by millions of Hindus.
Mr Modi and his Nepalese counterpart K. P. Sharma Oli jointly inaugurated a direct bus service between Janakpur and Ayodhya – the twin sacred cities for Hindus. “Janakpur and Ayodhya are being connected. This is a historic moment,” Mr Modi said. The bus service is part of the Ramayan Circuit to promote religious tourism between Nepal and India.
Mr Modi was affectionately greeted by a large crowd after touching down in Janakpur, a trip he had planned during his first visit to Nepal in 2014, but it could not materialise due to political reasons. The then Nepali Prime Minister Sushil Koirala did not allow the Indian leader to address a public gathering in Janakpur due to tense relations with India at that time.  
Mr Modi’s third visit to Nepal is part of enhanced diplomatic outreach to Nepal to reset ties with the strategically located neighbour amid perceived drift of Mr Oli towards China.  
Janaki temple glowed with lights and flowers as Mr Modi, accompanied by his Nepali host, offered prayers. The atmospherics suggested warming of relations between India and Nepal.
 “I am glad to be here in Janakpur. I am here to pay respects to King Janak and Mata Janaki. I thank the PM of Nepal Shri Oli for accompanying me during this visit to Janakpur,” Modi said.
“Today’s welcome in Nepal shows the affection the people of Nepal have towards the people of India,” Modi told the gathering. “Immense enthusiasm in Nepal’s Janakpur”, tweeted Mr. Modi
Janaki temple, was built in memory of Sita, the wife of Lord Ram, in 1910. The spending three-storied structure, made of stone and marble, is 50-metre high and spread over 4860 sq feet.
This is the third visit of PM Modi to Nepal and the first high-level visit from India since the formation of the new government in Kathmandu this year.
The visit to Janaki temple symbolically marks the end of a prolonged period of drift in India-Nepal relations. “If Modi was allowed to visit Janakpur in 2014, Nepal-India ties would not have sunk so low,” said Janakpur-based analyst Bhogendra Jha.


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