Grand welcome, ethnic delights for Abe in India

Grand welcome, ethnic delights for Abe in India
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (centre right), hugging Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he met him at the airport in Ahmedabad, India, yesterday. Photo: AP

Grand welcome, ethnic delights for Abe in India

AHMEDABAD — Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe for a two-day visit to India yesterday, with a cultural roadshow in his home state of Gujarat.

During Mr Abe’s visit, both leaders are expected to bolster bilateral defence and maritime security cooperation amid China’s growing assertiveness in regional waters.

At Ahmedabad airport, Mr Modi welcomed Mr Abe in person with a hug. The Japanese leader changed into a kurta — a loose collarless shirt — and an Indian-style Nehru jacket before going on a cultural roadshow with Mr Modi.

The roadshow began at the city’s airport towards the direction of the iconic Sabarmati Ashram, one of the residences of Mahatma Gandhi. The 8km route was decked up with more than 25 stages where artistes from different states performed while wearing traditional attire.

Later, Mr Modi hosted Mr Abe at a dinner where a Gujarati vegetarian platter was served. Before taking power in 2014, Mr Modi served as chief minister of Gujarat.

This was Mr Abe’s 10th meeting with Mr Modi. Japan is one of only two countries with which India has an annual summit mechanism. The other nation is Russia.

During his stay in Gujarat, Mr Abe is scheduled to attend a ceremony to mark the beginning of construction of a new high-speed railway employing Japanese bullet train technology.

“I want us to take a big step so that this ‘Shinkansen’ project, which heralded the start of Japan’s own rapid economic growth, will serve as a spark for further growth in India,” he told reporters before leaving from Haneda airport in Tokyo.

The railway between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is about 500km long. The Indian government wants the route between the two western cities to begin operating by 2023.

Mr Abe is seeking the adoption of Japanese technology in other railway systems in the South Asian country, as New Delhi also plans to build high-speed railways connecting the four major cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

Given China’s assertive activities in the East and South China seas, as well as the Indian Ocean, Mr Abe and Mr Modi are expected to affirm the importance of collaboration in defence equipment and trilateral joint drills involving the American Navy, said Japanese officials.

Mr Abe is also keen to discuss with Mr Modi upgrading “two-plus-two” security talks involving vice-foreign and defence ministers to a ministerial-level dialogue in light of Beijing’s growing influence, said Japanese government sources on Tuesday.

At the summit meeting today, Japan is also expected to affirm close cooperation with India, to address the threat from North Korea, which conducted a sixth nuclear test recently and has continued to launch ballistic missiles, officials said. AGENCIES