Guwahati to host annual Modi-Abe summit in December
An interaction at a 19th century colonial riverside bungalow and a cruise on the Brahmaputra are expected to be among the highlights of the annual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe to be held in Guwahati in mid-December.
The two sides zeroed in on Guwahati as the venue for the summit, the dates for which are yet to be formally announced, in view of the focus on India’s northeastern states under the Act East Forum launched by India and Japan almost two years ago and the considerable development assistance provided to the region by Tokyo, people familiar with planning for the summit said on Sunday.
Modi and Abe may cap the two-day summit with a visit to the new Peace Museum in Manipur’s capital Imphal, which commemorates one of the fiercest battles of World War 2 in 1944 in which thousands of Japanese soldiers were killed.
Foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale, accompanied by officials from the external affairs ministry and security agencies, visited Guwahati and Imphal November 21-22 to assess preparations and arrangements at the different venues.
“The old deputy commissioner’s (DC’s) bungalow is expected to be the venue for a cultural event. They are also expected to take a cruise on the Brahmaputra,” said a person who declined to be identified. This was also confirmed by an official in Guwahati.
Two hotels in Guwahati – Vivanta and Radisson Blu – have been scouted by authorities to host the leaders and their delegations, the people cited above said. One of is expected to be the venue for a business summit to be co-hosted by CII.
The DC’s bungalow, a 19th century colonial structure atop the Sukreswar Hill overlooking the Brahmaputra, is the focus of a ~9.86-crore project to renovate it and convert it into Bahniman Brahmaputra River Heritage Centre as part of a riverfront development scheme.
“We are sprucing up the bungalow,” said a senior official of Guwahati Metropolitan Development Authority.
A top official of the Manipur government said the foreign secretary was in Imphal recently and the two prime ministers are expected to visit a World War 2 peace memorial built by the Japanese in 1994 and the Imphal Peace Museum at Red Hill or Maibam Lokpa Ching.
“We have not been told if the proposal (for the visit) has been accepted. But if it is, then the two leaders will arrive at the Imphal airport, visit the World War 2 memorial and museum and leave for the airport,” said the Manipur government official.
The Imphal Peace Museum, 20 km southwest of Imphal, was developed on 10 acres at the foot of Red Hill with support from Japan’s Nippon Foundation and in collaboration with Manipur Tourism Forum and the state government.
Almost 70,000 Japanese soldiers and more troops from Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army are believed to have died in battles in Kohima and Imphal in early 1944. The last of these battles was fought at Red Hill.
Modi had travelled to Japan for last year’s summit and Abe had hosted a private dinner for him at his ancestral home in Yamanashi.
The northeastern states have emerged as a preferred destination for Japanese investments. In June, a statement after a meeting between a Japanese delegation led by its ambassador and development of north eastern region (DONER) minister Jitendra Singh said the Japan government intends to invest about ~13,000 crore in the region.
The Act East Forum, which is chaired by the Japanese envoy and India’s foreign secretary, aims to expand bilateral cooperation in the northeast and to strengthen ties between Japan and the region.
The forum is a platform for collaboration under India’s Act East Policy and Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy. It focuses on connectivity, developmental infrastructure, industrial linkages and people-to-people contacts through tourism, culture and sports.
Japan is assisting with water supply and sewage projects in Assam, road projects in Meghalaya, forest management projects in Tripura, Nagaland and Sikkim, and an irrigation project in Mizoram.