New Delhi: Opening a new chapter in centuries-old Indo-Japanese ties Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe will visit Varanasi on Saturday.
The visit assumes significance as it comes against the backdrop of Partner City Agreement between Kyoto and Varanasi, signed by the two leaders during the Prime Minister’s visit to Japan in August, 2014.
Mr. Abe, who is on a three-day visit to India, along with Mr. Modi will attend the Ganga Aarti, a choreographed ritual worship of the holy river performed daily at Dashashwamedh Ghat.
A gigantic make-shift stage has been erected on the river bed and a music system is being installed with special permission from the Allahabad High Court.
Army and Navy personnel would be guarding the make-shift stage from where the PMs will enjoy a panoramic view of the event.
The ancient temple town, situated less than 15 kms from Sarnath where Buddha delivered his first sermon upon attaining enlightenment, boasts of a special place in the religious and cultural consciousness of Japan as well as most of the South East Asian countries with sizeable Buddhist populations.
“India is all set to welcome its great friend & a phenomenal leader, PM @AbeShinzo. His visit will further deepen India-Japan relations,” Mr. Modi tweeted.
He also praised Mr. Abe’s views on India-Japan ties and “the rich potential & cultural bond”.
The two leaders are also expected to interact with dignitaries of Varanasi over dinner before boarding their return flight to New Delhi.
Officials of the Japanese Embassy have been camping in the city for the past few days to take stock of preparations and security arrangements for the visit of Mr. Abe.
As part of the Agreement, colloquially called the ‘Kashi-Kyoto pact’, the ancient temple town will receive assistance from the former capital of Japan in overcoming its problems of traffic congestion, poor sanitation and crumbling infrastructure while preserving its heritage.