Amid "great expectations", Prime Minister Narendra Modi today embarked on a visit to Japan which is expected to open new vistas in the bilateral ties and take the Strategic and Global Partnership to a higher level.
On his first bilateral visit outside the subcontinent as the Prime Minister, Modi has a substantive agenda during the five-day trip which he hopes will "write a new chapter" in the bilateral relations and cooperation in the fields of defence, civil nuclear and infrastructure besides commerce.
Underlining the importance of the visit, the "excited" Modi said on the eve of the trip that Japan has "paramount importance" in his vision for India's development and progress.
In the first leg of his visit, the PM will travel to Kyoto, the 'smart city' of Japan, to see the experiment there considering that he intends to build 100 smart cities in India. In a special gesture, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will fly to Kyoto to receive Modi there.
The two leaders will have substantive summit meeting in Tokyo on September 1 during which the two sides will look at ways to take the Strategic and Global Partnership forward.
India has "great expectations" from the visit, the External Affairs Ministry has said.
Cooperation in the fields of defence, civil nuclear, infrastructure development and rare earth materials is expected to top the agenda of the discussions.
Some agreements, including in defence and civil nuclear sectors, are expected to be signed. Among the agreements to be signed is one on joint production of rare earth materials.
"I am keenly looking forward to my visit to Japan at the invitation of my good friend, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, for the annual summit between India and Japan," Modi said in his pre-departure statement.
Noting that this will be his first bilateral visit outside the immediate neighbourhood as Prime Minister, he said it underlines "the high priority" that Japan receives in India's foreign and economic policies.
"It is also a reflection of Japan's paramount importance in my vision for development and prosperity in India and in peace, stability and prosperity in Asia at large," Modi said.
"I am confident that my visit will write a new chapter in the annals of the relations between Asia's two oldest democracies and take our Strategic and Global Partnership to the next higher level," he said.
He noted that Japan is one of India's closest partners in political, economic, security and cultural realms besides being a key regional and global partner for India.
A highlight of the visit will be Modi's tour tomorrow of Japan's 'smart city' Kyoto, which is an example of cultural tradition and modernity, dovetailing the Prime Minister's own vision of building 100 smart cities in the country.
"We will explore how Japan can associate itself productively with my vision of inclusive development in India, including the transformation of India's manufacturing, infrastructure sectors, energy and social sectors.
Modi said he would discuss with Abe the roadmap for global and strategic partnership in the years ahead.
"We will discuss how to boost our defence and security cooperation, including in defence technology, equipment and industry, in line with the evolving domestic policies of the two countries," the Prime Minister said.
"I will try to accelerate progress on the unfinished agenda of projects and initiatives that our two countries have embarked upon," he added.
"I am meeting Prime Minister Abe at a time of enormous global challenges, from persisting economic weaknesses to turmoil and transitions in different parts of the world. I hope to exchange views with Prime Minister Abe on important regional and global developments of shared interest," Modi said.
The Prime Minister said there is only goodwill and mutual admiration between the two countries. Buddhism from India has inspired Japan for over a millennium and people in India similarly draw inspiration from Japan's vanguard role as the fountainhead of Asia's modernisation, resurgence and rejuvenation.
"The people in India are grateful for the seminal contribution made by Japan's generous ODA over the years to India's economic, social and infrastructure development," he said.