General Rawat’s visit had aimed at exploring new areas of military-to-military cooperation between the two countries.
New Delhi: In a sudden and heartwarming gesture that may have significant impact in fostering better relationship between India and Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka, about 160 Sri Lankan military personnel and their families from the Army, Air Force and the Navy will fly down in an Indian Air Force (IAF) C-17 transport aircraft on Sunday to visit the Buddhist pilgrimage centre at Bodh Gaya in Bihar.
On Monday, the Lankan team will visit the Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) at Gaya followed by a visit to Bodh Gaya. On Tuesday, the same C-17 aircraft will fly them back to Colombo.
The idea for the visit germinated during the Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat’s four-day visit to Sri Lanka from May 14 when the proposal of a visit of Sri Lankan military personnel to the OTA at Gaya was being discussed. General Rawat’s visit had aimed at exploring new areas of military-to-military cooperation between the two countries.
Colonel Aman Anand, Indian Army spokesperson said: “When the idea of including a visit to Bodh Gaya was proposed, it generated a lot of enthusiasm among the Sri Lankans. There has been great positive response to this great outreach in Sri Lanka. It is an achievement for Indian military diplomacy.”
General Rawat took the proposal to the defence ministry where defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman gave the clearance on a priority basis.
Bodh Gaya is the place where Gautam Buddha, the founder of Buddhism is said to have gained enlightenment in the 6th century BC and is looked upon as a holy place for practicing Buddhists and other believers.
Of late, India has been concerned by China’s spreading influence in the island nation especially after Sri Lanka handed over the control of the southern port of Hambantota to China on a 99-year lease.