Tug of war between India and Nepal over Buddha’s origins

S. Jaishankar, Buddha origins
File image of S. Jaishankar
S. Jaishankar, Buddha origins
File image of S. Jaishankar

“Nepal is the land of origin of Lord Buddha”, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Kathmandu claimed on Sunday after India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar described the founder of Buddhism as one of the greatest Indians ever. The comment from the Indian Minister also drew a series of reactions from leading Nepalese figures, including former Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal, who said Mr. Jaishankar’s comments about Lord Buddha were “objectionable”.

“It is a well-established and undeniable fact proven by historical and archaeological evidence that Gautama Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal. Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha and the fountain of Buddhism, is one of the UNESCO world heritage sites,” said the official spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Nepal in an official statement.

All this matter gained momentum after Mr. Jaishankar, during an interaction with the Confederation of Indian Industries on Saturday, referred to Buddha while discussing India’s soft power. “Who are the greatest Indians ever that you can remember? I would say one is Gautama Buddha and the other is Mahatma Gandhi,” said Mr. Jaishankar.

The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, however, responded saying that the Minister was referring to the “shared Buddhist heritage.” The Indian statement supported the Nepalese assertion and said, “There is no doubt that Gautama Buddha was born in Lumbini, which is in Nepal.” India’s statement, however, did not focused on clarifying how Mr. Jaishankar regarded the Lumbini-born Sakyamuni or the Buddha as an Indian.

Earlier in this matter, Mr. Jaishankar was criticized by Mr. Nepal who described the remarks as “insensitive and wrong.” “The Indian Foreign Minister has described Nepal’s Lumbini-born Gautama Buddha as a ‘great Indian’. This amounts to misinformation and is objectionable,” said Mr. Nepal.

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