On one side, the pothole-ridden roads of Ahmedabad
are getting a quick makeover, while on the other, the state government bureaucrats are getting new visiting cards printed in Japanese.
All this in order to host Japanese Prime Minister
Shinzo Abe by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
This gesture is being seen as a reciprocation of Abe’s hospitality shown in November 2016. The Japanese Prime Minister
will be treated to authentic Japanese and Gujarati cuisine, though a Chinese President Xi Jinping-Modi like tête-à-tête
may not take place, according to government sources.
Sabarmati railway station, the venue for the ground breaking ceremony of the Rs 98,000-crore Ahmedabad
to Mumbai high-speed rail project, popularly known as the bullet train, which will be chaired by Modi and Abe has also undergone a facelift.
As Japan's share in foreign direct investment (FDI) inflow to Gujarat is on the rise, Narendra Modi's home state is going all guns to make Japanese Prime Minister
and Modi's friend Shinzo Abe's two-day visit to Gujarat a memorable affair. This would also be one of the rare occasions when a head of a state would skip New Delhi during his/her bilateral visit to the country.
Senior officials in the government pointed out that Japan's importance as a strategic economic partner of Gujarat is increasing day-by-day. In fact, Japan led the FDI growth in Gujarat in recent years. FDI inflow to Gujarat rose from $2.24 billion in 2015-16 to $3.36 billion in 2016-17, up 50 per cent. The growth is almost four times when compared to 2013-14 levels.
Suzuki's Rs 3,000 crore worth investment along with Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India's Rs 1,100 crore are some of the big-ticket Japanese investments in the state in recent times. Japanese investment in the state is pegged at around $1 billion and is slated to double in the next three years or so.
It is in this backdrop that Abe and Modi would be breaking ground for the bullet train
project as well as sign memorandums of understanding (MoUs) for a second Japanese industrial park at Sanand. Currently, there is one at Mandal near Suzuki Motor Gujarat's plant. The parks are expected to draw investment worth Rs 25,000 crore.
Besides, Japan was one of the few countries that came out in India's support during the Doklam
stand-off with China.
"The plan is to make this visit special and memorable for Shinzo Abe. We want to showcase a slice of India during his visit. This would start right from his journey from the airport when people would stand on either side of the road welcoming him. Additionally, live cultural performances would be dotted across this road trip," said a senior official on grounds of anonymity.
Abe would be treated to Indian cuisines as Modi plans to host him for a dinner at a heritage hotel in old Ahmedabad.
Senior bureaucrats of the state, who had recently visited Japan, were particularly moved by the hospitality extended to them. Besides Indian cuisine, they were treated to mangoes brought in from Gujarat.
Apart from bureaucrats getting new cards printed in Japanese to share with the visiting delegation, Ahmedabad's rising Japanese connection has spawned around eight restaurants that now serve Japanese cuisine in and around the city.
"JETRO is opening a major office in the city that would be at par with their office in New Delhi to facilitate the projects here," informed an official.