Cultural, Religious and Education Relations
Sri Lanka and Nepal people have lot to share with each other in terms of rich cultural heritage. Both countries have signed an Agreement on Cultural Cooperation in 1999 during the state visit of Her Excellency Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. This Agreement covers art, culture and sports activities between Nepal and Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka has expressed its desire to patronize the study and research of History, Buddhism, culture, arts, and other related areas of study. Sri Lanka also showed interest in assisting the excavation of Kapilavastu and the development of Lumbini. Contents of this agreement also have been in co-operated into the Joint Commission which was signed on 03rd March, 2009 during Sri Lanka President’s visit to Nepal.
Prior to establishment of Diplomatic relations, the ties between the two countries were guided by religious similarities. In 1940, Ven. Bhikku Amriananda of Nepal received his ordination in Sri Lanka by the late Ven. Vajranana Mahanayake Maha Thero of Vajraramaya, Colombo. In 1946, a goodwill Mission led by Ven. Naradha Maha Thero of Vajiraramaya visited Nepal and met the then Prime Minister Shumsere Jung Bahadur Rana.
One of the most important contributions made by Sri Lanka was to assist Nepal to reintroduce Theravada Buddhist education. This had commenced since 1940s, as an initiative undertaken by the like-minded Buddhist scholars and philanthropists such as Venerable Narada, Piyadassi, Kotugoda Dhammaasa, Madihe Pannaseehe etc. in Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan Buddhist monks have provided a great help in bringing the relics of Lord Buddha and a branch of Sri Maha Bodhiya to Nepal.
Many young Nepali Buddhist novices had undergone training in Theravada Buddhism at various Centers of learning in Sri Lanka since 1930s. At the moment, around 200 Nepali monks are being trained. Many have obtained their bachelor degrees and few had continued up to MA, M. Phil and Ph. D degrees. While Colombo Plan had provides scholarships for some Buddhist monks government of Sri Lanka scholarships for those pursuing higher Buddhist education. Monasteries of Sri Lanka have become free shelters for the Nepali monks during their study.
At present more than 200 students are studying MBBS Degree in private Medical Colleges in Nepal. An agreement was signed between two countries on 20th April, 2007 on exemption of visa fees for the students who visit each other’s country for the purpose of study.
Healthy bilateral relations means paradigm shift in diplomacy and it needs to be in harmony with existing realities. This requires thinking pragmatically. Based on the historical as well as pre-historic evidence, Sri Lanka can formulate a cohesive strategic alliance with Nepal. This invariably include concept of holistic human security. Such an alliance is pragmatic and way forward in bringing prosperity and sustainability to the people of South Asia.
Furthermore there is ample scope for co-operation between Nepal and Sri Lanka both at bilateral and regional levels. These potentials have not been fully tapped. Bilateral co-operation appears to have moved forward a little in the areas of education, culture, agriculture and economy. As Nepal and Sri Lanka are both members of SAARC, BIMSTEC and Colombo Plan the possibility of co-operation at regional level is growing. As both countries are adopting Liberal Economic Policies, stressed Public Private Partnerships (PPP) and encourage foreign investment, the possibility of co-operation in these areas in the future will be beneficial to both countries.
The tremendous goodwill of Sri Lanka towards Nepal and its people, the same is reciprocated in Nepal too. Similarly century old relationship which buttressed though high level State visits from time to time by both countries remained close, cordial, friendly and warm ever since. I wish this friendship should further develop from strength to strength in the future.
Reconstruction of two heritage temples, “Anandakuti Maha Vihar” and “Rato Macchindranath Hindu Temple” damaged by the earthquake in 2015, commenced in December 2015 with an estimated cost of USD 2.5 Million proposed by Sri Lanka. The reconstructions are scheduled to be completed by mid-2018.