AHMEDABAD — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe Sept. 13 began a two-day visit to India here with a warm hug from his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, who took him on a road show to Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram and the iconic Sidi Saiyed mosque, which are representative of the once-syncretic culture of Ahmedabad.
The two leaders took an eight-kilometer journey in an open jeep from the Ahmedabad airport to the serene environs of the Sabarmati Ashram where they, along with Japan's First Lady Akie Abe, paid floral tributes to a portrait and bust of Mahatma Gandhi.
All along the route, people lined up on both sides of the road and cheered and waved at the dignitaries. Abe, who landed in a suit, changed into a white churidar-kurta topped with a bright blue sleeveless jacket. His wife wore a maroon printed kurta with straight pants.
Modi took the Abes on a tour of the Ashram where the three posed for pictures, including one in front of a charkha, or spinning wheel.
In May 1915, after returning to India from South Africa, Mahatma Gandhi established his first ashram at Kochrab in Ahmedabad but later shifted it to the banks of the Sabarmati in June 1917.
The Sabarmati Ashram was home to Gandhi from 1917 until 1930 and served as one of the main centers of the Indian fight for freedom.
During the Sept. 13 visit, Abe and his wife also signed the Ashram’s visitor book.
After spending some time at the Ashram, Modi guided Shinzo and Akie Abe to the Sidi Saiyed mosque in the heart of Ahmedabad.
The 16th century mosque is known worldwide for its window filigree work, which has become synonymous with Ahmedabad.
The Abes ended the day with a dinner at a heritage hotel, the House of MG's Aghashiye restaurant.
Earlier in the day, breaking protocol, Modi personally received Abe at the Sardar Vallabhhai Patel International airport with a warm hug.
Abe was given a guard of honor while artists from different parts of the country presented a variety of programs.
The two leaders and Akie Abe then boarded an open vehicle and proceeded from the airport to the Sabarmati Ashram.
On Sept. 14, Modi and Abe will participate in the ground breaking ceremony of the ambitious Rs. 1.08 lakh crore ($17 billion) Ahmedabad-Mumbai high-speed rail project at the Athletic Stadium near the Sabarmati railway station.
Thereafter, they will hold the 12th Annual Bilateral Summit in Gandhinagar, after which a number of agreements are expected to be signed.
This will be the fourth annual summit between Modi and Abe, and they are expected to review progress in the multifaceted cooperation between India and Japan under the framework of their Special Strategic and Global Partnership.
Japan is one of only two countries with which India has such an annual summit mechanism; the other is Russia.
The two prime ministers will also attend an India-Japan Business Leaders Forum.
Modi has previously hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping in Ahmedabad.