The International Buddhist Conclave-2016, which was officially inaugurated on 02nd October, 2016 in New Delhi, opened its sessions in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India, the heartland of Buddhist pilgrimage today.
The opening session was addressed by Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Tourism & Culture. Shri Om Prakash, Tourism Minister, Govt. of Uttar Pradesh, Tourism Secretary Shri Vinod Zutshi, Shri Navneet Sehgal, Principal Secretary, UP Tourism and Commissioner Varanasi. H.E. Assoc. Professor Chavanee Tongroach, Vice Minister of Tourism & Sports, Govt. of the Kingdom of Thailand, Mr. Macio Favilla, Executive Director, World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and Mayor of Varanasi amongst others attended the opening session of the conclave.
Delivering his opening remarks, Dr. Mahesh Sharma said, “India is the seat of Spiritual Tourism and that Government of India & Government of Uttar Pradesh are committed to develop the Buddhist Circuits. He also stated that Sarnath will be made the hub of Buddhist Tourism in India and efforts will be made to bring in Air, Rail and Road connections from Sarnath to various Buddhist sites in India”.
Dr. Sharma further outlined the Ministry of Tourism’s investment in tourism infrastructure for development of Buddhist Circuit in India under its Swadesh Darshan Scheme and stated that an amount of Rs. 132.17 crore have been sanctioned till date. He further added that for Uttar Pradesh, the Ministry of Tourism is in the verge of sanctioning an amount of Rs.99.97 crore this year for infrastructure development of Buddhist Circuit covering Saravasti, Kapilvastu, Kushinagar.
Welcoming the delegates and participants, the Tourism Secretary Shri Vinod Zutshi said that this is the first time when the International Buddhist Conclave is being organized in the premises of Sarnath. He further added that India is prepared for developing a trans border Buddhist Circuit across ASEAN & SAARC countries to enhance movement of Buddhist pilgrims in the region from remaining parts of the world.
The whole day session included panel discussions on ‘India- The Land of Buddha’ with an objective to showcase India as Buddhist destination and “Creating Buddhayana Sangha” for the worldwide community of Buddhist including the Sangha in supporting India’s vision to develop Buddhist Circuits and awaken the world of Buddha’s India.
The day concluded with B2B meetings, a platform for interaction of Indian Tour Operators with the foreign Tour Operators and delegates attending the International Buddhist Conclave-2016. More than 240 international delegates from 39 countries are attending this Conclave this year. The delegates will later travel to Nalanda, Rajgir and Bodhgaya to experience the Buddhist heritage in Bihar.
With a view to showcasing and projecting the Buddhist heritage and pilgrim sites of India, the Ministry of Tourism is organizing the ‘5th International Buddhist Conclave’ from 02nd to 06th October, 2016 in association with State Governments of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.