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[dropcap]N[/dropcap]ew Delhi: The President of India Mr. Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated the “International Buddhist Conclave (IBC), 2018” here today. The Minister of State (IC), Mr.vK.J. Alphons presided over the inaugural function. The 4 days long Conclave has been organized by the Ministry of Tourism in collaboration with the State Governments of Maharashtra, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh from August 23– 26, 2018 at New Delhi and Ajanta (Maharashtra), followed by site visits to Rajgir, Nalanda and Bodhgaya (Bihar) and Sarnath (Uttar Pradesh). The President also launched the Ministry of Tourism website on important Buddhist sites – indiathelandofbuddha.in and a new film showcasing the Buddhist sites in the country on the occasion. From August 24– 26, 2018, delegates would be taken for site visits to Aurangabad, Rajgir, Nalanda, Bodhgaya and Sarnath.
The Ministerial level delegation from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka are participating in the conclave. The delegates from the following 29 countries are participating in the International Buddhist Conclave: – Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brazil, Cambodia, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Mangolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Norway, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Slovak Republic, Spain, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, UK, USA and Vietnam.
Delivering inaugural address, the President said that the voyage of Buddhism from India to Asia and the transcontinental links that were created carried more than just spiritualism. They carried a rich cargo of knowledge and learning. They carried arts and crafts. They carried meditation techniques and even martial arts. Eventually, the many roads that the monks and nuns – those men and women of faith – carved out became among the earliest trade routes. In that sense, Buddhism was the basis for an early form of globalisation – and of inter-connectedness in our continent. It is these principles and values that must continue to guide us.
The President said that tourism is a multi-stakeholder enterprise. The private sector and civil society have substantial roles. And in terms of providing a safe and secure visitor experience, state and municipal administrations play a critical part. The business potential of tourism is immense. Across our world, this industry is a big job creator, especially for local households and local communities. In its essence, tourism, like Buddhism, is about people and empowering them to realise their potential.
In his address, Mr. K.J. Alphons said that India has a rich ancient Buddhist Heritage with several important sites associated with the life of Lord Buddha. The Indian Buddhist Heritage is of great interest to the followers of Buddhism the world over. The aim of the Conclave is to showcase and project the Buddhist Heritage in India and boost tourism to the Buddhist sites in the country and cultivate friendly ties with countries and communities interested in Buddhism.
He said that the Conclave features presentations by the Ministry of Tourism and State Governments, Panel discussion between scholars and monks and B2B meetings between the foreign and Indian tour operators. The Ministry has also organized an ‘Investors’ Summit’ during the Conclave to attract investments in developing world class infrastructure at Buddhist sites.
The Ambassador of Japan to India, Mr. Kenji Hiramatsu in his address said that the Japan has very long cultural relations with India and Tourism is the important component in Indo-Japan relations. The cultural relations between India and Japan are still continuing. Japan is promoting sightseeing tours of Buddhist sites in Japan to promote Buddhism.
Smt. Rashmi Verma, Secretary, M/o Tourism in her welcome address said that Buddhism binds the culture of India, with that of countries in the region like Bhutan, China, Cambodia, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. About 500 million Buddhist worldwide, represent 7% of the World’s population, making Buddhist, the fourth largest community in the World. We are also proud to have Japan as the Partner country of this conclave and happy to note a strong participation from Japan led by the Ambassador of Japan in India.
She further said that Ministry of Tourism has identified 17 sites in 12 clusters in the country for development under Iconic Tourist Sites Development Project, pursuant to Budget Announcements of 2018-19. The Ministry shall be developing the above sites in a holistic manner with focus on issues concerning connectivity to the destination, better facilities/experience for the tourists at the site, skill development, involvement of local community, promotion & branding and by bringing in private investment. Two prominent Buddhist sites namely Mahabodhi Temple (Bihar) & Ajanta (Maharashtra) feature among the Iconic Sites identified by the Ministry.
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