NOIDA: The ministry of external affairs (MEA) has tied up with Gautam Buddha University (GBU) to conduct a three-day course for Asean countries on India’s Buddhist heritage. The course – ‘Engaged Buddhism: A joint way forward for India and ASEAN’ – is meant for diplomats, civil servants and academics in Asean, officials said.
This is the first time the MEA has joined hands with a university to conduct such a course for neighbouring nations. Sources said several countries had signed up for the three-day course from March 4-6, organised on a virtual platform under the Centre’s Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme.
The Buddhism studies department of GBU will be responsible for the course. “The course is on India’s Buddhist heritage. Worldwide, Buddhist diplomacy and soft power is being deeply studied. The Buddhist discourse is the true path of Asian diplomacy and common ground for international discussion,” said Arvind Singh of the Buddhist studies department who is coordinating the course. “The Buddhist faith, due to its emphasis on peaceful coexistence and its wide panAsian presence, lends itself well to soft-power diplomacy.
This is the core of the threeday course we are offering through ITEC,” Singh added. An MEA official said, “Formerly, other institutes have supported us in conducting similar courses.” Explaining that this was part of India’s foreign policy initiative to deepen diplomatic, economic, cultural and strategic associations, the official added, “Today, 97% of the world’s Buddhist population lives in the Asian continent, and a number of (Asean) countries conceive of Buddhism as intrinsic to their national values andidentity.”
India embraced Buddhism as an attribute of its soft power as it appeared that China, which took Buddhism from India, had been trying to corner the market on Buddhism diplomacy.
In the past decade at least, India has increased tourism for Buddhist pilgrims, creating a Buddhism tourism circuit, sometimes in collaboration with Nepal or Sri Lanka. Last week, India opened an international airport in Kushinagar to add to the Buddhist circuit.