Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived here today on a two-day visit with a packed agenda that includes the laying of foundation stone for India’s first bullet train project between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. Prime Minister Narendra Modi received Abe, who is accompanied by his wife Akie, with his characteristic hug at the airport this afternoon.
Immediately after the welcome ceremony, Abe, his wife, and Modi set-off on an 8-km roadshow in an open-roof jeep for the Sabarmati Ashram where apostle of peace Mahatma Gandhi spent considerable time of his life. Abe, who was in a formal suit when he arrived at the Ahmedabad airport, wore kurta-pyjama and a blue Nehru jacket, while his wife donned red salwar-kameez and a white stole to Sabarmati Ashram.
The two leaders repeatedly waved to the crowds that lined up the streets as performers presented traditional dance enroute. At the Sabarmati Ashram set up by Mahatma Gandhi, Abe and his wife paid homage to the Father of the Nation.
Modi was seen explaining to the visiting dignitaries the significance of the spinning wheel, which became emblematic of India’s quest for self-reliance during its non-violent struggle for freedom from imperial rule. It was for the first time that Modi held a joint road show with a visiting head of government of a foreign country, reflecting the close bonding he shares with Abe.
As the cavalcade moved on, cheering crowds were seen waving Indian and Japanese national flags. 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 road show, which began from Ahmedabad airport ended at the Sabarmati Ashram after traversing nearly eight kilometres.
Tomorrow, Abe and Modi will 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 Modi.
The two leaders will 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 yesterday.
Abe’s spouse will be visiting a number of places including an NGO — Blind People’s Association. Modi had hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife in Ahmedabad in his home state Gujarat in September 2014.