India and Mongolia share warm and cordial bilateral relations. Mongolia regards India as its “third” and a “spiritual neighbour”. The year 2022 marks the 67th anniversary of diplomatic ties between India and Mongolia. The bilateral relationship was upgraded to a Strategic Partnership in 2015 during the historic visit of Prime Minister which has proven to be a watershed event in India’s bilateral relations with Mongolia. Since then, bilateral cooperation with Mongolia has expanded and has seen significant growth. Despite the COVID pandemic, the momentum thus generated has been sustained by several high level exchanges in the last few years (Visit of Vice President, Speaker of the Lok Sabha in 2016 visits of Home Minister & EAM in 2018) and visit of Minster of Petroleum and Natural Gas (Oct 2019) and by initiating of process of construction of first Oil Refinery in Mongolia under Exim Bank LoC of USD I.236 Billion – the single largest project of assistance – capable of refining 1.5 million metric tonnes crude per year (equivalent to approximate 80% of Mongolian oil consumption) has further consolidated goodwill and friendship of India with Mongolia.
The 3 Ds – Democracy, Dharma and Development Partnership have emerged as the pillars of India Mongolia relationship. Historically, our two nations have interacted through the vehicle of Buddhism that has developed, nurtured and promoted the friendship and spiritual connect. In modern times, Buddhism has been promoted by cultural and literary contacts between the people of India and Mongolia. Prof. Lokesh Chandra collaborated with his father Prof. Raghu Vira and completed the “New Tibeto-Mongol Pantheon” in 20 volumes and also edited 108 large volumes of the Mongolian Kanjur or Buddhist Canon. These accounts confirm that both India and Mongolia were in close direct contacts especially during 5-7 century AD and it seems that Buddhism in Mongolia accelerated the process of further spread of Indian culture in Mongolia. Late Ambassador Bakula Rinpoche during his 10 years’ tenure in Mongolia from 1990-2000 contributed immensely to consolidating this legacy of Buddhist connection with India and was instrumental in reviving 100s of Buddhist monasteries in Mongolia and setting up of revered Pethub Monastery in Ulaanbaatar city.
Ealier today Union Minister Kiren Rijiju has left for Mongolia with four relics of Lord Buddha for an 11-day exposition as a part of Mongolian Buddha Purnima.
Mahavamsa mentions that “When the relics are seen, the Buddha is seen”. And in Śālistamba Sūtra (Rice Seedling Sūtra), the Buddha Shakyamuni said, “One who sees the Dharma sees the Buddha”. In the Buddhist tradition, various classifications of relics are divided into 1. Body relics 2. Contact relics (pāribhogika), i.e., objects that the Buddha owned or used or with which he closely associated, such as bowls, robes, bodhi trees 3. Dharma relics, by which as meant either whole sutras or a dharma verse (such as the “ye dharmā hetuprabhavā hetuṃ teṣāṃ tathāgato hyavadat, teṣāṃ ca yo nirodha evaṃvādī mahāśramaṇaḥ”, or a dhāraṇī, or anything somehow recording the Buddha’s teaching.
In the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, after the Buddha Shakyamuni’s passing away, his remains were divided and distributed among the princes of eight of the sixteen mahājanapadās- Kapilavastu, the capital city of the Shakya kingdom 1/8th of the Buddha’s Relics was stored.