Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka, declared that from August this year, Air India will operate direct flights between Colombo and Varanasi.
“My Tamil brothers and sisters will also be able to visit Varanasi, the land of Kashi Viswanath,” PM said while addressing a crowd at the opening ceremony of International Vesak Day at Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo.
Varanasi is the PM’s Lok Sabha constituency. In a similar 2014 visit to Japan, he had signed a partnership agreement between Varanasi and Kyoto, both historically significant cities, making them sister cities.
PM is currently participating in the International Vesak Day celebrations in the island country. Later in the day, he will inaugurate the 150-bed multi-specialty Dickoya Hospital which was built with Indian assistance.
Upon his arrival in Sri Lanka on Thursday, PM Modi met President Maithripala Sirisena and PM Ranil Wickremesinghe, who had earlier visited India in April. In an unscheduled meeting, Modi also held talks with former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
“I believe that we are at a moment of great opportunity in our ties with Sri Lanka. You will find in India a friend and partner that will support your nation-building endeavours.” PM said.
Speaking about the significance of Buddhist teachings and learning in Sri Lankan culture, the PM said that Lord Buddha’s message from two and a half millenia ago is as relevant today.