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Pakistan and Sri Lanka to co-promote Buddhist sites

The Island, July 9, 2008

Colombo, Sri Lanka -- High Commissioner for Pakistan in Sri Lanka Shahzad A. Chaudhry yesterday in an interview with "The Traveller" said that the Ghandara heritage in Pakistan is now part of world heritage and we must preserve, protect and exhibit the archaeological findings of Lord Buddha.

"Where Buddhist heritage is concerned it is not only Ghandara which has a 3500 year old history that comes in to focus but more recent findings such as a buried city has been excavated in Balochistan which has a history of 500 years," he pointed out.

This is a part of our combined heritage which we have to share with others he explained.

In fact the entire Ghandara area was a Buddhist region which extended from Taxila in Pakistan to West of Kabul in Afghanistan he pointed out adding that Taxila was a source of Mahayana school of Buddhism and was ruled by many kings and invaders like Alexander the great, Raja Ambi, Chandra Gupta Maurya, Bindusara, Kunala, Kushana, Asoka etc and today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Chaudhry emphasised the need to preserve historical and religious sites such as Taxila and said that the Paksitan government has conserved the Buddhst trail in the country for posterity.

"Ghandara trail was a part of the silk route and many Buddhist pilgrims from different countries such as China, Vietnam, Japan etc used to visit these sites on this historical route," he said.

Before creating an awareness in the West it is more important for people from Buddhist countries to realise the importance of these sites and explore them he noted.

On the other hand Pakistan realises

He emphasised the need to promote bilateral tourism between Sri Lanka and Pakistan and added that more awareness has to be created about the places of tourist interest in Pakistan among the Sri Lankans.

Sri Lanka being a predominantly Buddhist country there are many Buddhist historical sites such as the Ghandara trail with places like Taxila, Swat Valley etc which would be of immense interest to its people he noted.

Asked about the number of Pakistanis visiting Sri Lanka per year he said it is an average of 5,000. But he was positive that the number could be increased with properly planned campaign by the tourism authorities of both countries Chaudhry added.

On the other hand Sri Lanka has an advantage among the other tourist destinations being an affordable country for many and they should capitalise on this. Pakistan is one of the countries Sri Lanka could tap he said.

Chaudhry was highly impressed with what Sri Lanka has to offer on eco-tourism among different aspects of tourism.

"The spending capacity of the Pakistanis have grown rapidly over the years and Sri Lanka could tap some of the Pikistani tourists who visit countries such as UK, USA and other countries with proper marketing and an awareness campaign he said.

In a survey conducted in London in 2007 it has revealed that Pakistani tourists had outspent the others the High Commissioner said.

There is ample scope for promotion of bilateral tourism between the two countries with recently signed Air Services Agreement between the two countries, with permission granted for 14 flights to be operated per week between the Sri Lanka and Pakistan he said.


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