After Nepal formally objected to External affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s assertion at the webinar that Buddha was one of the greatest ‘Indians,’ India was swift to dampen the nascent controversy by arguing that there is ‘no chance’ that the founder of Buddhism was born in Nepal.
At Confederation of Indian Industry’s ‘India@75 Summit – Mission 2022′, Jaishankar mused during an interactive session on Saturday about the ‘greatest Indians ever that you can remember’. ‘I would say one is Gautam Buddha and the other is Mahatma Gandhi,’ he offered.
A day later, Nepal foreign ministry issued a statement that it was a ‘well-established and undeniable fact proven by historical and archaeological evidences that Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal’.
The statement issued on behalf of Nepal foreign ministry’s official spokesperson was in the context of the ‘recent statement made by the External Affairs Minister of India on Gautam Buddha’.
He reminded that Indian Prime Minister Modi had himself mentioned during his speech to Nepal parliament in 2014 that ‘Nepal is the country where apostle of peace in the world, Buddha, was born’.
‘It is true that Buddhism spread from Nepal to other parts of the world in the subsequent period. The matter remains beyond doubt and controversy and thus cannot be a subject of debate. The entire international community is aware of this,’ he added.
In a couple of hours, India issued a statement that put a lid on the controversy, for now.
‘EAM’s remarks yesterday at the CII event referred to our shared Buddhist heritage. There is no doubt that Gautam Buddha was born in Lumbini, which is in Nepal,’ said MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.
Although Nepal is responsive to the ownership of Gautama Buddha, the current tension has emerged in the context of frosty ties between New Delhi and Kathmandu over territorial issues.
In September 2013, Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh had to publicly affirm that ‘Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal,’ during her trip to Nepal.
Around 300 cable operators in Nepal had blocked Zee TV after it had apparently shown in a series that Gautama Buddha had been born in India. There had been street protests and extensive outrage on social media platforms.
Due to the shared culture, Buddhism is not the only point of contention.
Last month, Nepal’s PM, Krishna Prasad Oli, declared that India had seized Lord Rama and that the ‘actual’ city of Ayodhya was located in Nepal.
India did not issue an official riposte, but Kathmandu was clearly aware of the political relevance of Lord Rama to the ruling establishment in New Delhi, which led it to issue a ‘clarification’.
‘As there have been several myths and references about Shri Ram and the places associated with him, the Prime Minister was simply highlighting the importance of further studies and research of the vast cultural geography the Ramayana represents to obtain facts about Shri Ram, Ramayana and the various places linked to this rich civilisation,’ said the statement from the Nepal foreign ministry dated July 14.

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