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How India is reaching out to Cambodia, Maldives, Myanmar with heritage diplomacy

Jungle-clad balustrades of Taphrom temple in Angkor Complex, one of the reconstruction project in Cambodia. Photo: The Better India The ministry of external affairs is turning to God to strengthen regional relationships. The ministry of external affairs has realised that adding a little bit of faith to diplomacy goes a long way.

From Ankor Wat in Cambodia to the Bamiyans—before they were blown up by the Taliban—the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) has been on a renovation spree.

Earlier this month, Indian archaeologists restarted work on pagodas in Bagan in Myanmar.

Work had been suspended due to the pandemic. This is not India’s only spiritual reach out. On the cards from next January is Hukuru Miskiy or the Friday Mosque in Maldives.

“Restoration work of Friday Mosque to resume on Jan 1. Will restore Hukuru Miskiy to its old glory!” tweeted India in Maldives on October 5. The project was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last year in June on his visit to the Maldives. The expected cost of the project is 1.3 million dollars.

“There is no such mosque elsewhere in the world like this historical mosque made up of coral,” Modi had said as he addressed the Parliament in the country. Built in the 17th century, the mosque is one of the oldest buildings on the island.

It is a testimony of the fusion of different cultures in the Indian Ocean. This is not the first time that India has helped restore mosques in the island nation. Over the years, India has lent a hand in the conservation of the mosque earlier too in the 80s.

There have been other mosques too—Fenfushi, also one of the oldest mosques built on the island; Dharimavantha Rasgefanu Miskiiy in 2004 and Eid Miskiiy in 2006.

However, under the present government—this has moved into the strategic realm.

Earlier this year, the newly created division—Development Partnership Administration (DPA IV)—has become the nodal point to deal with heritage restoration projects overseas.

And India has plenty under its belt.
A memorandum of understanding was signed in 2018 to restore pagodas in Bagan post the earthquake four years ago. There is also the Son Temples in Vietnam.

Constructed between fourth and 13th centuries, these Hindu temples, which are on the UNESCO world heritage list, are tangible links between the two countries. In Laos, there is the Vat Phou Shiva temple, and in Sri Lanka, there is the Thiruketheeswaram Temple. Mandira Nayar – The Week Magazine, India

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