Nepal, India to sign key pact on tourism

- POST REPORT, Kathmandu
Nepal, India to sign key pact on tourism

Nov 21, 2014-

Nepal and India plan to sign a landmark agreement on tourism during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Kathmandu from November 25-28 to attend the 18th Saarc Summit.

Tourism Secretary Suresh Man Shrestha said that the pact was aimed at bolstering tourism between the two countries. “We are in the final stages of preparing the draft accord in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”  

Meanwhile, the Indian media reported that the Union Cabinet at a meeting chaired by Modi on Thursday had approved signing the memorandum of understanding (MoU). “The agreement will help India increase foreign tourist arrivals from Nepal. This in turn will result in economic development and employment generation,” the media reported. Nepal’s Cabinet has already given the go-ahead to the proposed pact.

Although, the details of the agreement have not been unveiled, ministry sources said that the two countries would develop and mutually promote the Buddhist pilgrimage circuit.

The Buddhist pilgrim route connects Bodhgaya in Bihar and Sarnath and Kushinagar in Uttar Pradesh in India and Lumbini in Nepal. In 2013, Lumbini hosted 125,496 foreign visitors recording a drop of 8 percent from the previous year.

India has agreed to support the construction of the U Thant World Peace Auditorium in Lumbini. The memorial convention centre has been planned as a tribute to former UN Secretary-General U Thant who initiated the international effort to develop the Buddha’s birthplace in 1967.

Meanwhile, other cooperation pacts will be signed to conserve archaeological monuments and construct a dharmasala in the Pashupatinath area, said Tourism Ministry officials.

As per an earlier draft planned during Modi’s August visit, India will extend support for the development of two important pilgrimage sites, Baraha Kshetra and Janakpur.

Nepal and India have also decided to exchange cooperation between Lalit Kala Academies and Natya Pratisthans to promote art and culture. The two countries have agreed to review the airspace agreement to ensure more entry routes for airlines coming to Nepal.

Similarly, both the governments have agreed to strengthen cultural ties by establishing sister city relations between Kathmandu and Varanasi and Janakpur and Ayodhya.

While Kathmandu is the city of Pashupatinath and is also called the city of big and small temples, Varanasi is home to Kashi Vishwanath, one of the most revered Hindu temples, and numerous other temples and ghats. Likewise, while Ayodhya in India as per Hindu mythology is the birthplace of Lord Ram, Janakpur in Nepal is believed to be the home of his consort Sita.

Indian visitors make up the largest arrivals to Nepal. The country received 180,974 travellers from the southern neighbour last year. According to the Tourism Ministry, Indian visitors are not known for spending much time in Nepal.

In 2013, their average length of stay was 8.67 days, putting them among the lowest stayers in Nepal. Of the total Indian arrivals, 142,054 were first time visitors to Nepal.

Published: 22-11-2014 10:33

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