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India-Japan bonhomie on display as Modi, Abe visit Sabarmati Ashram, historic mosque in Gujarat

The Japanese PM is in Gujarat for two-day visit. He will break ground with Modi for India’s first bullet train project that is set for 2023 rollout.

india Updated: Sep 14, 2017 00:41 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, Ahmedabad

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived in Ahmedabad yesterday afternoon on a two-day visit to attend his fourth India-Japan annual summit meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PM and his Japanese counterpart inaugurated India’s first bullet train, the high speed rail project this morning in Ahmedabad. The trio took a tour of Sidi Saiyyed Mosque, the famous 16th century mosque where PM Modi described them about its rich heritage and architecture. (PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the Sabarmati Ashram with Japanese premier Shinzo Abe on Wednesday, soon after he arrived in Gujarat for a two-day visit.

Modi received Abe and his wife at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Airport, where he waited for around half an hour to greet Abe with an embrace.

The two leaders and Japan’s first lady, Akie Abe, left for the ashram in an open vehicle to the accompaniment of music and cultural fanfare.

“I believe that Japan-India relationship is blessed with the largest potential in the world, and I am determined that Japan and India will lead the way towards peace and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region and the world, hand in hand with Prime Minister Modi,” the PMO quoted Abe as saying in a Twitter release.

Abe, the prime minister of Japan, is here for the 12th annual India-Japan summit. He and Modi are expected to inaugurate the start of the $17 billion high-speed rail project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, and sign several agreements on strategic, financial and development cooperation.

Modi took the visiting dignitaries on a tour of the Sabarmati Ashram, where the trio posed for pictures.

Abe wrote a short message in Japanese – “Love and Thanks” – on the visitors’ log book at the ashram.

The couple, dressed in traditional Indian attire, then visited the ‘Hriday Kunj’, the room where Gandhi lived, and had their photographs clicked with the freedom fighter’s legendary charkha (spinning wheel).

The trio also paid floral tributes at the Mahatma’s statue.

The Sabarmati Ashram was home to Gandhi from 1917 to 1930, and served as one of the main centres of the Indian freedom struggle.

The three spent some time by the Sabarmati riverfront behind the ashram, where Modi showed his guests the three monkeys of Gandhi. Incidentally, these figurines – also called the mystic apes – are said to have their origin in 17th century Japan.

They then headed to the Sidi Saiyyed Ni Jaali, an ancient mosque. The architectural marvel, located in the eastern part of the city, is known across the world for its intricate stone lattice work – locally known as ‘jalis’. Modi took Abe and Akie on a brief tour of the mosque, explaining the importance of the heritage monument built in 1573.

The two leaders will get down to business on Thursday. This will be the fourth annual summit between Modi and Abe, who will review the progress in Indo-Japanese cooperation under the Special Strategic and Global Partnership. Japan is one of only two countries with which India has an annual summit mechanism, the other being Russia.

Though most of Abe’s first day was spent sight-seeing, India and Japan did sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the expansion of an international laboratory set up for collaborative research in biotechnology on Wednesday.

The pact envisages the expansion of DAILAB – the laboratory set up by India’s Department of Biotechnology and Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Science and Technology. The MoU is likely to be exchanged after delegation-level talks between Abe and Modi.

Much of the imagery from Wednesday was in contrast to the 2014 visit of Chinese president Xi Jinping, who also visited the Sabarmati Ashram.

Unlike then, India put up a cultural show for Abe’s reception at Ahmedabad on Wednesday.

Later, Modi hosted dinner for Abe and Akie at famous ‘Agashiye’ restaurant, known for its elegance and kosher Gujarati cuisine. Modi played a perfect host to Abe and the first lady at the terrace restaurant, a boutique heritage hotel in the old city.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Sep 13, 2017 19:30 IST