Nepal’s foreign ministry on Tuesday clarified that Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s claim that Hindu deity Ram was born in his country and not India was not meant to debase the cultural significance of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. Hindus in India believe that Ayodhya is the birthplace of Ram.

The Nepal government added that Oli’s remark had no political bearing and was not intended to hurt anybody’s sentiments. “As there have been several myths and references about Shri Ram and the places associated with him, the Prime Minister was simply highlighting the importance of further studies and research of the vast cultural geography the Ramayana represents to obtain facts about Shri Ram, Ramayana and the various places linked to this rich civilization,” the Nepal foreign ministry said in a statement.

Nepal said that it shared a deep cultural connection with India. “It may be underlined that the tradition of celebrating Bibaha Panchami, where a marriage procession coming from Ayodhya, India to Janakpur, Nepal takes place every year,” Nepal said. “The Prime Ministers of Nepal and India launched the Ramayana Circuit in May 2018, of which Janakpur-Ayodhya Passenger Bus Service is an important component.”

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The Nepal prime minister had claimed on Monday that Ayodhya was in fact a small village near Kathmandu and also accused India of “cultural oppression and encroachment”. The Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been a staunch advocate for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya, had lashed out at Oli for his claim. “Lord Ram is a matter of faith for us, and people will not allow anybody, be it prime minister of Nepal or anyone, to play with this,” Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Bizay Sonkar Shastri said.

Oli’s statement came amid tensions between India and Nepal over the Kalapani, Lipulekh and Limpiyadhura areas. Nepal maintains that India has claimed the disputed region by building a link road despite repeated objections. India, on the other hand, said that the road falls within its territory.

In June, the Nepal Parliament approved a bill demarcating the Lipulekh mountain pass, Kalapani and Limpiyadhura as its territory. Earlier this month, Oli claimed that the Indian government and his political rivals were plotting to oust him from power, causing outrage in Kathmandu and demands by Nepali politicians for his resignation.

On July 9, the Nepal government decided to ban the transmission of all Indian news channels except state broadcaster Doordarshan, claiming that they had been telecasting content hurting the country’s national sentiments.