Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold bilateral talks with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Gandhinagar, instead of Delhi, on September 14, sources told The Indian Express on Friday. This will mark the second time that Modi will be hosting a visiting leader and holding bilateral talks in Gandhinagar — the last time was his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in September 2014.
Three years ago, when Xi was hosted on the banks of the Sabarmati river, the standoff at Chumar was ongoing. This time, almost three weeks after the “disengagement” of Indian and Chinese troops at Doklam, Abe is the first foreign leader to visit the country.
Japan was the only major country which conveyed its unequivocal support to India and Bhutan through diplomatic channels during the Doklam standoff. “We understand that the standoff in the Doklam area has been ongoing for nearly two months. What is important in disputed areas is that all parties involved do not resort to unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force (but) resolve the dispute in a peaceful manner,” Japan’s Ambassador Kenji Hiramatsu had told The Indian Express.
Sources said Modi and Abe would hold talks in Gandhinagar and take part in the ground-breaking ceremony (bhoomi pujan) for the ambitious Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail Project, commonly referred to as the bullet train project, which is estimated to cost Rs 98,000 crore. The ceremony will be held at a site near the Sabarmati railway station in the city.
When Modi visited Japan in November last year, Abe travelled with him to Kobe in a bullet train. During Modi’s earlier visit in September 2014, Abe flew down to Kyoto to receive him, and the two leaders then went to Tokyo for a bilateral meeting.
During Abe’s last visit to India in 2015, he and Modi travelled to Varanasi and witnessed the Ganga Aarti at the Dashashwamedh Ghat. Sources said Abe has visited Delhi at least a dozen times in the past, and the PM wanted to take him out of Delhi.
“But we do not want a repeat of the same photo-op on the banks of Sabarmati, like it happened with Xi…so we are looking for alternative photo opportunities there,” said a source.
The two leaders are likely to discuss a range of issues, including defence, Asia Pacific, nuclear cooperation, and joint development of projects in the region.
Ahead of Abe’s visit, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar said Japan can make a substantive difference to its nuclear industry, and identified cooperation in civil nuclear energy and defence as two domains that portend the future direction of the bilateral ties.
Speaking at the ‘India-Japan Colloquium’, Jaishankar also noted that the growing convergence of views between India and Japan has the capacity to drive Asia’s economy and development and stimulate global growth.
“In this regard, the two countries have agreed to cooperate closely to promote connectivity, infrastructure and capacity-building in the regions that occupy the interlinked waters of the Indo-Pacific,” said Jaishankar.
India and Japan signed a civil nuclear deal during Modi’s Japan visit in November 2016. The deal, which enabled Japan to export nuclear power plant technology to India, came into force in July this year.
“Japan’s openness to supply India with military technology reflects the high level of confidence that the two countries have developed in each other,” said Jaishankar.
Asserting that the interaction between India and Japan now has a significance beyond the bilateral, and the Asia-Africa growth corridor was just one example, he said that the two countries stand ready to move their relationship forward with determination.
“Prime Minister Abe’s forthcoming visit will present an occasion to demonstrate this concretely. But in an increasingly uncertain world, they are now purposefully heading towards a more collaborative future. Their success in doing so has significant implications for the world,” he said.