Round-up of regional news

Buddha's billions

Although always officially atheistic, the Communist Party of China continues to make headway in actively promoting Buddhism. In late June, the Chinese government-backed Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF) announced that it would raise USD 3 billion to develop Lumbini, the birthplace of Gautama Buddha and a UNESCO World Heritage site in Nepal's southern Tarai plains. The project will try to turn the area into a 'magnet for Buddhists' similar to Mecca or the Vatican, building roads, airports, hotels and museums, as well as a Buddhist University.

The new Chinese plans for Lumbini, less than 10 km from the border with India, is said to have raised concerns in New Delhi. Largely lost in this tussle between the Asian giants, however, is Nepal itself. At present, Lumbini loses out in terms of revenue to Saranath in eastern Uttar Pradesh, where Buddha first taught the dharma, and Bodhgaya in Bihar, where he attained enlightenment.

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Himal Southasian