In a bold assertion against China’s growing political and economical clout, the Nepali government Thursday rejected plans by a Chinese government backed NGO to revamp Lumbini, Lord Buddha’s birth place.
Less than a month after a much hyped media coverage in China touted the project as the transformation of Lumbini into a “Mecca for Buddhists”, the Nepali government unceremoniously rejected the virtual Chinese takeover, saying it would not entertain any deal struck in a third country without the participation of the actual stakeholders.
The Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation, a Chinese government backed NGO based in Hong Kong had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the UN Industrial Development Organisation for a $3 billion project to develop Lumbini, a UN world heritage site.
The project aimed at creating a ‘special development zone’ in Lumbini, complete with an international airport, hotels, and other tourism-related infrastructure.
Nepal’s culture secretary Mod Raj Dotel told reporters that the Nepal government will not allow the plans to go forward saying the government “had no formal intimation of the MoU and read about it in the media".
"Since the deal was struck between two organisations, which have no relation with Lumbini, keeping its actual stakeholder (Nepal) in dark, we have no obligation to recognise it," The Himalayan Times quoted Mr Dotel as saying.
There has been growing resentment against the deal signed in Beijing which many Nepalese see as a move undermining Nepal’s sovereignty. Nepal's foreign ministry in a meeting Wednesday rejected the MoU calling it “a groundless plan that ignored the host country”.
As Lumbini lies very close to the Indo-Nepal border, the shelved Chinese project had also raised major security concerns in India. The project would have witnessed an uneasy surge in Chinese presence along the Indo-Nepal border.