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Buddhist links set to take flight - Sri Lankan and Myanmar discuss direct air route

Talks have begun between Sri Lanka and Myanmar regarding establishing direct air connectivity between the two countries, the ​FT Lanka ​reported., as ties between the two governments continue to expand.

Nalin de Silva, the Ambassador-designate of Colombo to Myanmar has been reported to have had a meeting with the top echelons of the Myanmar Airways International, a privately owned airlines based in Yangon, and discussed the possibility of flying passenger planes without the need for a transit.

De Silva emphasised the need for a direct link between the two nations given the substantial potential for tourism and trade that exists. The Ambassador-designate also assured that ‘there would be a sizable traffic up and down between these two significant destinations underpinned by historical, cultural and religious affinities.’

The “cultural and religious affinities” between the two states refer to efforts by both governments in attempting to anoint the Theravada strand of Buddhism as the sole identity of the state. Indeed, an official Sri Lankan foreign ministry document ​states​, ‘Since the fourth century our two countries were entwined with the golden thread of Theravada Buddhism.’

De Silva, looking to parlay the religious rapport into stronger economic ties, also suggested the possibility of creating a circuit link connecting Colombo and Yangon to Bodhgaya in India, a site of great religious significance to Buddhists where the Buddha is believed to have attained enlightenment. The Himalayan kingdom of Nepal, considered the birthplace of the Buddha, is also sought to be connected through the capital Kathmandu.

CEO Saravanan Ramasamy of the Myanmar Airways International is said to have welcomed the idea and agreed to run a feasibility test on the plan as part of their strategy to revive the post-coronavirus businesses.

Both states have a history of committing genocide and their leaders thumbing their nose at international mechanisms to address concerns related to ethnic cleansing. Myanmar was sued by Gambia in the International Court of Justice earlier this year on allegations of genocide and the ICJ ​delivered stern rebukes​ to the country urging it to prevent the genocide of the ‘extremely vulnerable’ Rohingyas. Sri Lanka, currently headed by the notorious Rajapaksa brothers, have consistently evaded international scrutiny into their conduct during the end of the armed conflict with ethnic Tamils in the country when they massacred tens of thousands of them in cold blood and instead, alleged war criminals have been promoted to consequential positions in the government.

Read more from FT Lanka ​here​. For more on Myanmar’s Theravada chauvinism, read ​this piece on New Statesman.

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