“No pact on Chinese Lumbini project”

While the Nepal government has welcomed the initiative of a Chinese foundation to develop Lumbini “in principle”, it says there has been no official agreement in this regard.

The Asia Pacific Exchange and Cultural Foundation (APECF), a Chinese state-backed foundation, had announced it would provide $3 billion to develop the Lumbini region. An official told The Hindu in Beijing last week that they had the support of Nepali political forces, “left and right”. Nepal Prime Minister's foreign policy advisor Milan Mani Tuadhar, while not getting into specifics, had said: “We welcome any effort to develop Lumbini in principle but it will have to be co-ordinated through appropriate government channels keeping in mind the Lumbini Masterplan of the government.”

It now appears the foundation had not informed the Nepal government through any official channel for an approval. Nepal Foreign Ministry spokesperson Durga Bhattarai was quoted in a local paper as saying: “Nepal government has nothing to do with a deal that ignores the host government.” Culture Ministry Secretary Modh Raj Dotel said: “We are direct stakeholders in Lumbini's development but we got to know of the MoU through the media.” Mr. Dotel was referring to an MoU signed between the foundation and a U.N. agency as reported in The Hindu .

A highly placed government source told The Hindu on Thursday night, “This is very mysterious. There is no official information even till now. We kept quiet for a while for diplomatic reasons, but till now there is nothing. We want to develop Lumbini but how can we give total ownership of a major project, in a sacred place, to a foreign foundation? If Nepal was Buddha's janmabhoomi , birthplace, then India was Buddha's karmabhoomi . All actors have to be on board for such a project.”

The source added that U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had personally told Prime Minister Jhalanth Khanal that he was committed to developing Lumbini as he “owes that to his mother, who was a Buddhist”, and he would visit Nepal soon in this regard.

Mr. Ban had told Nepal that UNESCO would take charge of the development of the region. But the foundation signed a deal with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), about which the Nepal government has not yet been informed.

The APECF's officials include Maoist chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda' and the former crown prince, Paras Bir Bikram Shah. This too has invited comments in Nepal since the two have been political antagonists in the past, where the Maoists played a key role in ousting the monarchy.

  • Kathmandu welcomes initiative
  • U.N. will develop Lumbini: Ban

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