Indian Express: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka, announced 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,” he said while addressing a crowd at the opening ceremony of International Vesak Day at Bandaranaike Memorial International Conference Hall in Colombo, Sri Lanka yesterday.
Varanasi is the Prime Minister’s Lok Sabha constituency. In a similar 2014 visit to Japan, Modi had signed a partnership agreement between Varanasi and Kyoto, both historically significant cities, making them sister cities.
PM Modi is participating in the International Vesak Day celebrations in the island country. Later in the day, he inaugurated the 150-bed multi-specialty Dickoya Hospital which has been 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 reportedly also held talks with former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
PM Modi said that he believed that India and Sri Lanka are at a ‘moment of great opportunity’ with regards to relations and said that Sri Lanka would find a ‘friend and partner’ in India who will ‘their nation-building endeavours’.
Speaking about the importance of Buddhist teachings and learning in Sri Lankan culture, the Prime Minister said that Lord Buddha’s message from two and a half millenia ago is as relevant today.