The bonhomie, which was on display between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu in Delhi, got further accentuated in Gujarat on Wednesday as the two leaders flew kites and visited Sabarmati Ashram after holding a roadshow together in Ahmedabad.
Setting aside the diplomatic strain between the two countries over India’s vote at the UN on the East Jerusalem issue, both leaders spoke effusively about their friendship. In a public show of deepening ties between the two countries, Netanyahu praised Prime Minister Modi for “revolutionising” India “with the power of innovation”.
Modi, in return, called the visiting leader his “friend” and said the “bond between India and Israel will chart a new course for mankind in the 21st century”. With a bearhug, Modi received Netanyahu, who was accompanied with his wife Sara, at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Airport in Ahmedabad. From the airport, they began a roadshow to the Sabarmati Ashram in a bullet-proof SUV.
Carrying flags of India and Israel, thousands of people had lined up on the road leading to the Sabarmati Ashram. To welcome the Israel PM, 50 stages were set up along the 8-km-stretch where schoolchildren performed Indian folk dances.
At the Sabarmati Ashram, Modi guided Netanyahu and Sara to various rooms and showed articles used by Mahatma Gandhi. Netanyahu and Sara also tried to spin a charkha as Modi looked on.
In a four-line message jointly signed by Netanyahu and Sara in the visitor’s logbook at the ashram, they described their visit as “inspiring”. “An inspiring visit to the hearth of one of humanity’s great prophets of inspiration — Mahatma Gandhi,” Netanyahu wrote.
During the 20-minute visit to the ashram, Netanyahu and Modi also flew kites. “We gave kites to Modiji after welcoming both the leaders. Modiji was explaining to PM Netanyahu about the kite flying festival and told him that January is a very special month for Gujarat,” said 13-year-old Vrushank Thakkar.
Later Modi tweeted, “PM Netanyahu trying his hand at kite flying. Like a kite soaring high, India-Israel friendship is scaling new heights and will benefit not only our citizens but also the entire humankind.” Netanyahu also tweeted, saying , “Thank you to our good friend, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who accompanied us today on our visit to Gandhi’s home, Sabarmati Ashram. This was a special and moving day.”