Prime Minister Narendra Modi has his own way of striking personal chords with foreign leaders. If it was a stroll along the Sabarmati waterfront in Ahmedabad that gave a special touch to the visit of Chinese President Xi Jingping last year, it is likely to be aarti on the banks of Ganga in Varanasi that will reflect a similar moment when Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is in the country next month.
Abe, who arrives here on December 9, will be the first world leader to visit Varanasi ever since Modi won from there and took over as Prime Minister. Plans in the past to take US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Varanasi had not materialized.
It was Modi’s vision to see Varanasi, his Lok Sabha constituency, to be developed as a smart city on the lines of Kyoto. An agreement was signed between Kyoto and Varanasi in 2014 to cooperate in fields of arts, culture, heritage and modernization.
However, the Varanasi civic authorities could become a cause of disappointment for the two sides which are working on fulfilling Modi’s plans for the city. A Japanese team of technical experts had recently made its third visit to Varanasi as part of the project to develop Varanasi. However, delegation sources said the civic authorities had failed to prepare the detailed project reports.
Kyoto’s civic authorities were also part of the delegation which returned complaining of lack of cooperation, sources said. Incidentally, Varanasi has a BJP-run civic body and a mini PMO to act as a bridge between Delhi and Modi’s constituency. As per the understanding, Varanasi was to adopt Kyoto’s solid waste technique for garbage disposal.
Under the MoU signed during Modi’s Japan visit, a detailed roadmap of cooperation, forming the basis for further understanding, was to be prepared.
Abe had promised to invest $35 billion (3.5 trillion Yen or Rs 2,10,000 crore) in various developmental projects in India over the next five years, including building of smart cities and next generation infrastructure.
Further, it is believed that negotiations are in the final phase to prepare a text of the proposed Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement with Japan, which was somewhat softening its stance on allowing reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from Japan-made reactors, significant bearing on progress of two atomic projects under discussion involving American nuclear vendors — GE-Hitachi and Toshiba-Westinghouse. Globally, apart from Japan’s JSW, there are just three major heavy forging capacities in operation worldwide that can fabricate large single-piece pressure vessels for nuclear reactors — Creusot Forge (a subsidiary of France’s Areva group), Russia’s OMZ Izhora and Chinese state-owned firm China First Heavy Industries.