Kovind cites Buddha as bond

Welcome: Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and governor Satya Pal Malik welcome President Ram Nath Kovind  in Gaya on Thursday. (Suman)

Patna: President Ram Nath Kovind on Thursday said India's Act East policy should not merely be seen as "a diplomatic initiative" aimed at greater trade and investment, but in the context of the pan-Asian journey of Buddhism as "an integration of the dreams and hopes of hundreds of millions who live in India and in Southeast Asia" and other parts of the continent.

The President was speaking at the inaugural session of the "4th International Dharma-Dhamma Conference on State and Social Order in Dharma-Dhamma Traditions" at the International Convention Centre in Nalanda district's Rajgir, around 105km southeast of Patna.

Greater trade and investment are important for the prosperity and well-being of the people of India and all its partner countries, Kovind said, and also pointed to the shared legacy that binds them together and links their future.

"Our past has a common source; inevitably, our destiny too is linked. Our economic and diplomatic endeavours must draw from the same well-spring," Kovind said.

He highlighted the fact that more than half of the world's population lives in regions that have been historically influenced, and in many cases continue to be influenced, by the enlightenment of Lord Buddha, which Kovind said placed a model before humanity.

Sri Lankan foreign minister Tilak Marapana, Bihar Governor Satya Pal Malik, chief minister Nitish Kumar, deputy chief minister Sushil Kumar Modi, Preeti Saran, secretary (East) at the ministry of external affairs (MEA), and Nalanda University vice-chancellor Sunaina Singh were among those present at the event.

Hundreds of scholars and delegates from various Asian, European and American countries are attending the three-day conference, which Nalanda University has organised in partnership with Vietnam Buddhist University, the India Foundation, and the MEA.

The event is being organised as part of the silver jubilee celebrations of India's partnership with Asean (Association of South East Asian Nations) partnership. Leaders from all 10 Asean member countries will be the guests of honour at the Republic Day parade this year.

The President asserted that long before the term became popular, Buddhism was the basis of an early form of globalisation and of internconnectedness in Asia, which promoted pluralism, diversity of thought, liberal expression and emphasised on morality in individual life, human partnerships and socio-economic transactions.

Speaking at the inaugural session of the conference, Nitish said: "Nalanda University should be developed into a conflict resolution centre to ensure that no conflicts remain in the world. We have arranged for land for this purpose. Presidents of various nations can visit. A state guest house will be constructed here."

He also suggested that Rajgir should be made a Unesco World Heritage site.


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