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Thailand’s spiritual leader and chief monk Arayawangso with Don Pramudwinai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand, during their recent meeting. Image Credit: Supplied

ISLAMABAD: Don Pramudwinai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Thailand, has expressed optimism about the revival of “once-very cordial” diplomatic relations with Pakistan and for that purpose terms Thailand’s spiritual leader and chief monk Arayawangso’s efforts quite instrumental.

The minister has termed Pakistan as a land of ancient Buddhist sites of Gandhara Civilization which are very sacred for the Buddhists all over the world and Arayawangso through his “Dhamma Diplomacy” has re-enkindled in his disciples a longing to visit those places.

Don Pramudwinai expressed these views during an interview with Gulf News after a meeting with Arayawangso at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Bangkok.

Arayawangso, his team and senior officials of the Ministry were also present during the interview. The Thai Foreign Minister said his country valued relations with Pakistan in diverse sectors ranging from tourism to trade and industrial cooperation to investment. However, he admitted the level of bilateral trade was not where it should have been and both the countries needed to explore each other’s markets further for the collective good of their peoples.

Turning point in relations

According to him, the highest point of Thailand-Pakistan shared history was the landmark state visit of King Bhumibol Adulyadej and Queen Sirikit to Pakistan back in 1962. They planted mango trees during their visit and the 61-year old trees stand there in memory of the historic visit.

“His Majesty the current King of Thailand has also visited Pakistan as Crown Prince signifying the importance of our relations,” said the Deputy Prime Minister.

He also recalled his visit to Pakistan to attend the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit as an observer state a couple of years ago and termed it quite useful with regard to his meetings with his Pakistan’s counterpart.

Dhamma diplomacy, a way to connect civilizations

The Thai Foreign Minister spoke in length about Arayawangso’s initiative of “Dhamma Diplomacy” which in his words was a new and every effective dimension of Thai Foreign Policy. The credit for this Dhamma Diplomacy based on the teachings of Lord Buddha goes to Arayawangso’s tireless efforts for promotion of Pakistan’s Taxila, Swat, Peshawar, Takht Bhai and other sites of Buddhist heritage among Thai people, he said. Dhamma Diplomacy, the foreign minister said, was a way to connect the people and the civilisations.

Pakistan’s Buddhist places are a cradle of Gandhara Civilization and the spiritual leader’s book “The Buddhist Civilization of Gandhara” describes their historic significance in detail,” he said.

The book, according to the Foreign Minister, would serve as a medium to foster relations between Thailand and Pakistan.

He also referred to the recent elevation of Arayawangso and said since he commanded great respect in Thailand the Thai people would pay attention to his call and visit Pakistan as their next tourist destination.

A new tourist-friendly picture of Pakistan

The Thai people are looking at an entirely new picture of Pakistan after attending Arayawangso’s Dhamma teachings, said the foreign minister.

However, he said the Pakistan government can also reciprocate and take advantage of this golden opportunity by providing an enabling environment to Thai pilgrims/tourists and make their visit a memorable experience.

Thailand, he said, is an open society and there was no discrimination against any community on the basis of religion. Muslims in Thailand are living according to their belief and enjoy complete acceptance in Thai society, he said.

Similarly, the Pakistani businessmen are also a vital part of Thailand’s economy, the Thai FM added.

Exploring Lord Buddha’s marks

Arayawangso briefed the Foreign Minister about his three-month rain retreat at Taxila last year and informed wherever he visited people and the government of Pakistan warmly welcomed him and showed keenness to host the Thai tourists.

During his stay, Arayawangso was invited by the National School of Public Policy (NSPP), National Management College, Lahore, to address the participants of 116th NMC on ‘Dhamma-the teachings of Buddha and Pakistan’s role as cradle of Gandhara Civilization. He also mentioned efforts of the Pakistani entrepreneur and a vocal advocate of Thailand-Pakistan relations Imran Shaukat, Pakistani ambassadors Asim Iftikhar and Sahibzada A Khan and Thailand’s ambassador in Pakistan Chakkrid Krachaiwong for supporting him in exploring Buddhist marks in Pakistan.