Pakistan, Diplomacy & Lord Buddha

Cornered in the Indian Subcontinent for sponsoring terrorism from its territory, Pakistan takes refuge in Lord Buddha. Neighbouring India (and also China and Nepal) has always tried to increase its influence in South Asia and Southeast Asia through ‘Buddha diplomacy’. Now, Pakistan adopts the same policy.
During his recent visit to Nepal, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi urged Kathmandu to implement some joint projects with Islamabad in order to promote the ‘Buddhist culture’ in the region. Nepali Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Oli assured his guest that he would consider the proposal. Earlier, Pakistan had sent relics of Lord Buddha to Nepal for public display on Vesak (celebrated on April 30 this year) – a day that commemorates the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha. This is the first time when the Pakistani government sent the relics to a foreign country.

Shahid Khaqan Abbasi

Archaeologist John Marshall found the ‘Dharmarajika Stupa’ during an excavation in Taxila in 1912. Since then, Pakistan has preserved the Buddhist relics. The relics were dug up by Emperor Ashoka, who used the relics (said to have been divided into 84,000 portions) and had stupas (monuments) built over them throughout the region (India and Pakistan) he ruled. The Great Ashoka also spread the remains of Lord Buddha in different parts of the Indian subcontinent.
Diplomats are of the opinion that relics, associated with the Buddha, are one of favourite instruments of China and India to maintain their cultural dominance in Asia. India has always sponsored Buddhist conferences, decorated the Buddhist shrines and showcased Buddhist relics at various events in many South Asian and Southeast Asian nations. In December 2011, India and Myanmar jointly organised a three-day Buddhist conference in Yangon, as New Delhi’s main aim was to strengthen ties with Naypyidaw.

Khadga Prasad Oli

Some diplomats have opined that the ‘tug of war’ over Buddhism between India and China may trigger a Cold War with which political and commercial interests will be involved. Beijing has claimed that India backs the Tibetan government-in-exile only to put China under a diplomatic pressure. However, Pakistan has never been involved in ‘Buddha diplomacy’ with any country.

Experts believe that China has encouraged Pakistan to send relics of Lord Buddha to Nepal and Sri Lanka in order to counter India’s growing influence in those countries. India has every reason to worry about the Pakistani PM’s Nepal visit as it may be the beginning of the end of India’s ‘special relationship’ with the Himalayan nation.

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