The streets of Ahmedabad came alive on Wednesday with song and dance as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held an 8-kilometre road show with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe and his wife, the first such event by the Indian premier with a visiting head of government.
Modi held Abe in his characteristic bear hug as he, accompanied by wife Akie, landed at the Ahmedabad airport, reflecting the close bonding the two leaders have forged over several meetings.
Shinzo Abe and Narendra Modi at Sidi Saiyyed Mosque. Twitter/@PMOIndia
In a gesture symbolising the growing ties between the two large Asiatic economies, Abe wore kurta-pyjama and a royal blue Nehru jacket while his wife donned a red salwar-kameez ensemble as they accompanied Modi on the road show from the airport to the Sabarmati Ashram.
Sabarmati Ashram was set up by apostle of peace Mahatma Gandhi who spent considerable time of his life there. Song and dance performances were held by the roadside as the cavalcade rolled on, guarded by gun toting security personnel.
Crowds lining up the streets cheered lustily as Modi and Abe waved at them. Akie, meanwhile, happily clicked photos with her mobile phone. People were seen waving Indian and Japanese national flags at several places.
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. The visiting dignitaries and Modi paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi at the ashram where the Father of the Nation lived for about 12 years.
"Love and Thanks", Abe wrote in a short message in Japanese on the visitors' register which was also signed by his wife. The couple, dressed in traditional Indian attire, went inside 'Hriday Kunj', the small house where Gandhi lived, and had their photographs clicked with a 'charkha' (spinning wheel), which was emblematic of India's quest for self- reliance during the freedom struggle.
Modi, Abe, and the Japanese first lady then paid floral tributes at Gandhi's statue. Like a courteous and indulgent host, Modi showed the couple around the ashram. The three later sat for some time by the serene Sabarmati Riverfront, developed by Modi when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, chatting and laughing.
Modi showed them the statuettes of Gandhi's famous 'three monkeys' that symbolised his philosophy of peace and tolerance, with one of them covering its eyes, the second its mouth, and the third its ears in the gesture of "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil".
The three wise monkeys, also called mystic apes, are said to have their origin in Japan in the 17th century. They spent nearly 25 minutes at the ashram before visiting an iconic medieval era mosque — Sidi Saiyyed — an architectural marvel located in the eastern part of the world heritage city.
The 16th Century mosque is known across the world for its intricate stone lattice work locally known as 'jalis'. The mosque is popularly called 'Sidi Saiyyed ni Jali'. Modi took the couple on a brief tour of the mosque and explained to them the importance of the heritage monument built in 1573.
The iconic 'jali' on the wall of the mosque is the official logo of the Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad. Ahmedabad became the first city in the country to be included in the World Heritage City list by UNESCO in July this year.
The leaders then headed to the nearby 'Agashiye' restaurant for dinner in the old city area. The restaurant is known for its elegance and kosher Gujarati cuisine.
The two leaders will get down to business today when they jointly 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 kilometres 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 JN Singh had said on Wednesday. Abe's spouse will be visiting a number of places including 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.
Abe's visit comes amid rising tensions in the Far East where North Korea recently launched a ballistic missile that flew over Japan. Growing Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea is also a cause of concern in the region and could come up for discussion between the two leaders.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Sep 14, 2017 18:52 PM