India offers help to restore Tajik Buddha
NEW DELHI: India is keen to help Tajikistan restore a 1,600 year-old Buddha statue, said to be the largest in Central Asia after the destruction of the Bamiyan statues. The issue might figure in talks with the visiting Tajik President Emomali Sharifovich Rakhmonov.
Rakhmonov reached Delhi on Wednesday. He will meet Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Thursday, when at least five bilateral agreements will be signed. They cover cooperation economic, technical and legal matters. The pacts include one on cooperation against drug trafficking.
Officials here indicate that India might formally offer its restoration-expertise during this visit.
Many years back, Archaeological Survey of India experts had worked on the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan.
And when Taliban declared that they were going to blast the two statues, India had offered to take them off their hands and preserve them as heritage of the Afghan people.
After the destruction of the Bamiyan statues in March, the 14-metre long Tajik Buddha is said to be the largest in this part of the world. At least the Tajik authorities say so.
The reclining Buddha was discovered at Ajina Tape, about 300 metre north of Bamiyan and part of the Kushan empire, over three decades back. It was in pieces which have now been put together.
The pieces were housed by the Soviets in the basement of a musuem in Dushanbe, now the capital of the Tajik Republic which declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Post-Soviet Tajikistan wants to showcase the Buddha. It will be displayed at its Museum of National Antiquities, which reports say, will be inaugurated by Rakhmonov later this year by Rakhmonov.
The Tajik President is also travelling to Goa.
This is the third time President Rakhmonov is visiting India. External Affairs ministry officials say the two countries enjoy smooth political relations and share a common view on countering terrorism and dealing with the Taliban in Afghanistan.