Thursday, Feb 22, 2018 | Last Update : 06:02 PM IST
Japan PM will lay foundation stone for high-speed rail project.
Ahmedabad: The streets of Ahmedabad came alive on Wednesday evening with song and dance performances as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an eight-km road show with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe and his wife, the first such event by the Indian premier with a visiting head of government.
Japan’s Prime Minister is on a two-day visit to India to attend the 12th edition of the India-Japan annual summit meeting and lay the foundation stone for the high-speed train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai.
On his arrival at the Ahmedabad airport in the afternoon, Mr Modi held Mr Abe in his characteristic bear hug, reflecting the close bonding the two leaders have forged over several meetings.
Mr Abe was presented a guard of honour at the airport, after which artistes performed the traditional Gujarati dance. A group of Buddhist monks were also present at the airport to welcome Mr Abe and Japan’s First Lady, Akie Abe.
In a gesture symbolising the growing ties between the two large Asiatic economies, Mr Abe wore kurta-pyjama and a royal blue Nehru jacket, while his wife donned a red salwar-kameez ensemble as they accompanied Mr Modi on the road show from the airport to the Sabarmati Ashram.
Song and dance performances were held by the roadside as the cavalcade rolled on, guarded by gun-toting security personnel.
Crowds lining up the streets cheered and raised Indian and Japanese national flags as Mr Modi and Mr Abe waved at them. Ms Abe happily clicked photos with her mobile phone.
The road show, designed to showcase India’s cultural diversity, saw artistes from several states performing on 28 stages erected by the roadside.
They performed folk dances in traditional attires, while at several places along the way people in customary Japanese ensemble carrying parasols were also seen breaking into a jig to welcome the visiting dignitaries.
The visiting dignitaries and Mr Modi paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi at the Sabarmati Ashram where the Father of the Nation lived for about 12 years.
“Love and Thanks”, Mr Abe wrote in a short message in Japanese on the visitors’ register which was also signed by his wife.
PM Modi presented the couple with a statue of the Three Wise Monkeys.
The three later sat for some time by the serene Sabarmati riverfront, chatting and laughing.
From the ashram, the leaders headed for the famous Sidi Saiyyid Ni Jaali, a 16th Century mosque in eastern Ahmedabad. Mr Modi took Mr Abe on a tour of the yellow sandstone mosque and explained its rich heritage and architecture.
The mosque’s famed lattice work — called the Tree of Life — has come to be the unofficial symbol of the city and has also inspired the logos of the National Institute of Design and the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM).
The two leaders will get down to business on Thursday when they will jointly lay the foundation stone for the high-speed train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai which is expected to be completed by 2022. The train would cover the distance of over 500 km in around two hours.
Japan has extended a soft loan for the ambitious project conceptualised by Mr Modi.
The two leaders will also hold the 12th Indo-Japan annual Summit meeting at Gandhinagar after which agreements will be exchanged. Later, an India-Japan business plenary meeting will be held.
Fifteen agreements will be signed for investments in Gujarat during the visit of the Japanese Prime Minister, Gujarat chief secretary J.N. Singh had said on Tuesday.
Mr Abe’s spouse will be visiting a number of places, including an NGO Japan is one of only two countries with which India has such an annual summit mechanism. The other nation is Russia.