Nursing the ambition of creating 100 smart cities in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his Japan visit today on a significant note with a pact being signed under which his constituency Varanasi will be developed as a 'smart city' in partnership with Kyoto.
The Partner City Affiliation MoU marks the launch of smart heritage city programme, between the two countries as a detailed roadmap of cooperation will be prepared which will form the base for further understanding.
Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who made a special gesture of flying to Kyoto to meet his Indian counterpart, oversaw the ceremony where the pact was signed by Indian Ambassador to Japan Deepa Wadhwa and Daisaku Kadokawa, Mayor of Kyoto, the Japanese 'smart city' which is a confluence of heritage and modernity.
The pact was signed soon after Modi arrived here in the first leg of his five-day Japan tour amid his "great expectations".
The Kyoto Mayor will make a detailed presentation to Modi tomorrow on how the ancient tradition of Japan's cultural capital has been preserved while building it into a modern city.
Kyoto, with around 2000 temples and shrines, has been at the crossroads of history since the end of the Nara Period (794 A.D.), It was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years till the Emperor moved to Tokyo.
Under the MoU, both cities shall endeavor to strengthen exchanges and cooperation in the agreed fields based on principles of equality and mutual respect and benefit and continuously exchange information and opinion in the agreed areas and cooperate in important fields.
Abe received Modi at the Kyoto Guest House before the signing ceremony.
Attired in a black Bandhgala instead of his traditional dress Kurta Payjama, Modi arrived at the Osaka International Airport earlier in the day, his first bilateral visit outside the subcontinent as the Prime Minister.
On his arrival at the hotel here, Modi was greeted by a sizable Gujarati community with whom he spoke in Gujarati.
"Both of us are very optimistic about scripting a new chapter in the strong bond between India & Japan, which will benefit our nations," Modi tweeted.
"It was gladdening to witness the signing of MoU between Varanasi & Kyoto. Its yet another instance of furthering India-Japan cooperation," he said.
The MoU provides for cooperation in heritage conservation, city modernisation and cooperation in the fields of art, culture and academics, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin told reporters.
This marks the launch of Smart heritage city programme between the two countries, he added. The pact is in line with Modi's vision of building 100 smart cities across India.
After the signing of the pact, Abe hosted a dinner for Modi who has embarked on the visit with "great expectations" and hope that a "new chapter" would be written in the bilateral ties while taking the Strategic and Global Partnership to a higher level.
At the banquet at the Imperial Guest House, the two leaders spoke about a "strong and robust future" for bilateral ties, with Modi hoping that the two sides would strive to achieve in five years the unrealised potential of five decades.
They underlined the importance India and Japan have for each other.
"The discussions covered economic issues, and the opportunities that both countries had," a PMO statement said.
"Over dinner, we discussed various issues ranging from the deep cultural links between India & Japan to strengthening our ties," Modi said.
Abe spoke with great enthusiasm and strong conviction about India and the importance of India-Japan relations for his country and the region.
Modi described Japan as one of India's closest and most important partners and spoke about his own admiration and affinity for Japan and his high hopes from the relationship.
Modi, who has been "excited" about the visit, gifted books on Swami Vivekananda and a copy of Bhagawad Gita to Abe.
Before the dinner, Modi and Abe participated in a special ceremony called 'Feeding the Fish', a ritual in Japan because of the belief that it gives strength and perseverance to the fish.
The two leaders will have substantive summit meeting in Tokyo on Monday during which the two sides will look at ways to take the Strategic and Global Partnership to new heights.