It may have been a relaxed Saturday for the residents of this historic Kyoto city, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a busy evening in this one-time imperial capital of Japan. From feeding fish with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to witnessing an agreement between Varanasi and Kyoto, Mr. Modi set the pace for a hectic three days to follow.
At an informal dinner hosted by Mr. Abe for Mr. Modi and a few of his colleagues, the Prime Minister presented his Japanese counterpart with a specially-chosen book entitled “Swami Vivekananda and Japan”. Other than the Swami’s writings on Japan, Mr. Modi also presented Mr. Abe with a copy of the Bhagwad Gita.
Journalists in numbers
The Modi government may have dispensed with the practice of taking journalists on the PM’s special aircraft, but that’s not stopping newspapers and television channels from sending correspondents and camerapersons to cover Mr. Modi’s travels abroad.
Nearly 20 journalists have travelled to Japan to cover the Prime Minister’s first bilateral visit outside South Asia since he took office. Only official media came on the Prime Minister’s aircraft.
Your correspondent, who landed in Tokyo from Delhi on Saturday morning, used the Shinkansen, or bullet train, to reach Kyoto in the afternoon to cover Mr. Modi’s visit.
Too nationalist, Mr. Abe?
Japan’s leading newspaper, The Asahi Shimbun, is not happy with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for sending a written message to an annual ceremony of World War II criminals.
According to the paper, Mr. Abe in his capacity as chairman of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party said these men had “staked their souls to become the foundation of their nation”.
“It is shameful that 69 years after the end of hostilities, Japan still needs to announce afresh its official positions on these clear historical facts to audiences both at home and abroad,” the paper said in an editorial.
“Abe should be aware of how seriously his act has damaged the things this nation has achieved through steady efforts in the postwar era. We are eager to hear him answer in his own words the questions raised by his act,” the editorial added.
Possible upgrade for trilateral talks
During PM Modi’s official talks with the Japanese, one non-bilateral issue is expected to figure in the discussions. For some time now, India, Japan and the United States have been discussing issues of interest at the level of Joint Secretaries.
It’s possible that this trilateral dialogue, which is a sensitive issue in the neighbourhood, could be upgraded to a higher level. Mr. Modi, in his statements, has emphasised the importance of the India-Japan relationship for Asia and the rest of the world.