Delhi seeks Thai tips on Buddhist trail

The Telegraph, India, April 4, 2011

New Delhi, India -- India has sought Thailand’s help to develop the country’s Buddhist trail that continues to lack good air and road connectivity as well as hotels.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva will begin a daylong state visit to India tomorrow, as the two countries seek to deepen their defence co-operation and increase trade.

India will seek Thailand’s help in improving infrastructure at its Buddhist sites while promising greater assistance in the teaching of Sanskrit in Thailand.

Foreign ministry officials today said each year nearly 50,000 devotees from Thailand visit Bodh Gaya, where Gautam Buddha attained enlightenment.

As many as 7 lakh Indian tourists visit Thailand every year and there are 20 flights daily between the two countries.

“But there is enormous potential to increase religious tourism at sites associated with the Buddha but lack of infrastructure in these cities and towns has hampered tourist footfall,” said a foreign ministry official.

Roads to Bodh Gaya and other places of interest to Buddhist pilgrims such as Rajgir, Vaishali, Sarnath and Kushinagar are poor.

Foreign ministry officials said no flights operated from New Delhi or even Patna to Bodh Gaya.

The Buddhist holy city is better connected by air to Bangkok but a short airstrip means only small aircraft can land.

These places do not have good hotels either.

Thai companies are already involved in infrastructure development in India.

They have contributed to building the Delhi Metro and a Thai company is constructing a new terminal building of Calcutta’s Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose airport.

On its part, New Delhi plans to send more Sanskrit professors to Thai universities and set up chairs for Indian studies.

The two sides are also expected to discuss defence and security co-operation.

Thailand is strategically located near the Strait of Malacca, a vital shipping lane.