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Shinzo Abe India visit: Gujarat hosts 2nd world leader, after China’s Xi Jinping

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-09-2017 Elizabeth Roche

New Delhi: Gujarat will play host to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe this week, the second leader from East Asia to be welcomed in this state by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the past three years.

Abe and his wife Akie Abe will arrive in Ahmedabad on Wednesday for the 12th India-Japan annual dialogue. The meeting between Modi and Abe on Thursday will be the fourth annual summit between the two since Modi took office in 2014.

Soon after their arrival, the Abes will visit the Sabarmati Ashram—home to India’s freedom icon Mahatma Gandhi. Modi will accompany them on the tour, Pranay Verma, joint secretary in-charge of the East Asia division in the ministry of external affairs in New Delhi told reporters.

Modi hosted another key East Asian leader—Chinese President Xi Jinping in Gujarat’s commercial capital in September 2014. Xi’s wife Peng Liyuan also accompanied him for the visit.

Soon after his arrival, Modi took Xi for a tour of Sabarmati Ashram, for which Xi sported an Indian look, wearing an off-white khadi jacket presented to him by the Indian Prime Minister. The tour included a visit to Gandhi’s personal quarters, where Xi tried his hand at the charkha or the spinning wheel—seen as a symbol of self-reliance and used by Gandhi to spin cotton thread into cloth.

Modi and Xi also took a stroll along the Sabarmati river before sitting down to a dinner along the riverfront.

Modi’s gestures were seen as a way of striking up a personal rapport with the Chinese leader. In the case of Abe, though, this will not be necessary since Modi and the Japanese Prime Minister are known to share an extremely cordial equation—having met on 10 occasions in the past three years.

On Thursday, Modi and Abe will hold official talks in Ahmedabad—unlike most visits in the past when foreign dignitaries have held the formal discussions with Modi in Delhi and then moved to a state capital for other engagements like meetings with industry representatives. Abe and Modi will also attend a groundbreaking ceremony for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed railway corridor near the Sabaramati station and address an industry representatives’ meeting before Abe’s visit ends on Thursday, Verma said.

The 500-km railway link service is expected to start in 2022—a year ahead of what was previously expected.

During Abe’s visit to India in December 2015, it was announced that Japan would provide $12 billion of soft loans to build India’s first bullet train besides another $12 billion as an incentive package for Japanese companies investing in India.

Abe’s schedule in India showcases the “impressive expansion and deepening of our partnership with Japan across a wide spectrum of agenda and also shows Japan’s increasing engagement in India’s infrastructure development and some of India’s flagship initiatives such as Make in India and Skill India,” Verma said.

A statement by the Indian foreign ministry on Monday said, “The two leaders will review the recent progress in the multifaceted cooperation between India and Japan under the framework of their ‘Special Strategic and Global Partnership’ and will set its future direction.”

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