Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday inaugurated the Kushinagar International Airport and said that this was a ‘manifestation of decades of aspirations and efforts’ and as an elected representative from the Purvanchal, he said that it was time to fulfill their aspirations and commitment towards people.
“This was my commitment and we have fulfilled it. We lay special emphasis on linking Buddhist destinations, improving hospitality facilities and ensuring the comfort of tourists. This airport will not only serve tourists from India but also Buddhists from across the world, including Sri Lanka, Thailand, Korea, Japan, Cambodia and other countries,” he said.
Sri Lankan Cabinet Minister Namal Rajapaksa along with ministerial colleagues and a group of around 100 Buddhist monks arrived at Kushinagar International Airport to attend the inaugural ceremony of the airport on Wednesday.
India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla received Sri Lanka’s Sports Minister and son of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the event.
The Prime Minister added that Kushinagar international airport will not only be a mode of air connectivity but farmers, animal keepers, shopkeepers, workers and local industrialists will also benefit.
“It will create an ecosystem of business. It will generate employment for youth,” he said.
SpiceJet will operate a direct flight between New Delhi and Kushinagar.
Commenting on the disinvestment of Air India, Modi said, “A major step related to Air India was taken recently to run the country’s aviation sector professionally and to give priority to facilities and security. This step will give new energy to India’s aviation sector.”
Sri Lankan sports minister Namal Rajapaksa lauded the gesture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying, “It is a great gesture by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to open an international airport at Kushinagar, especially inviting Sri Lankan airlines as the first international carrier to land at the airport. We believe there are numerous travellers who travel to India for Buddhist pilgrimage, and opening an airport at such a holy place for the Buddhists will not only benefit the Buddhists of Sri Lanka but also Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world”.
The Prime Minister pointed out that other Buddhist destinations like Lumbini, Sarnath and Bodh Gaya were at a short distance from Kushinagar which added to the importance of the Buddhist circuit.
Modi announced that to bolster connectivity, 200 airports, heliports and waterdromes for seaplanes will be built across the country in the next three to four years. “Flight academies are also being set up and our drone policy will benefit agriculture, health and other sectors, including disaster management.
Earlier, Union Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia, while welcoming the guests, said that flights from Kushinagar would soon begin for Mumbai and Kolkata and other destinations.
He said that 54 crore Buddhists across the globe would benefit with this airport becoming functional.
The Ambassador of Bhutan, Maj Gen Vetsop Namgyel said that the inauguration of the airport will make the Buddhist circuit tourism very convenient.
“Wonderful development, as it will give the opportunity to Buddhist countries to come very conveniently to the most sacred place where Lord Buddha entered into Paranirvana. It will make the Buddhist circuit tourism very convenient,” he said.
“We have a lot of Thailand people who come here for pilgrimage. So having the new international airport would facilitate and boost the visit of the Thai people. I am sure we will have a lot of tourists coming in from Thailand. The Thai people like to come to India to complete the Buddhist circuit, so having an international flight would make the trip much easier,” the Ambassador of Thailand, Pattarat Hongtong said.
The Ambassador of Vietnam, Pham Sanh Chau said, “The biggest amount of visitors coming from Vietnam to India are the Buddhist and for the Buddhist pilgrimage. So we are very happy to see this airport become an international airport. This would reduce the travel distance very much. I and my family have been here too, and I believe that we have to boost more tourism coming from Vietnam”.
Ambassador of Myanmar Moe Kyaw Aung said that the move will attract more tourists from Myanmar as the majority of the population are Buddhists.
“This is a very important Buddhist circuit site. Previously they had to come from Gorakhpur, but now they can come directly to Kushinagar,” he said.
Minister Counsellor of Nepal Ananda Prasad Sharma hoped that the airport will facilitate the Buddhist devotees coming for pilgrimage.
Built at a cost of Rs 260 crore and spread over 3,600 sq m, the airport is crucial for religious tourism as Kushinagar is the place where Lord Buddha attained ‘Mahaparinirvana’. It is one of the four prominent Buddhist circuits. The airport will also serve nearby districts of Uttar Pradesh as well as Bihar.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said that Kushinagar was the ninth airport in the state and 11 more were nearing completion.
(With agency inputs)