Ahmedabad, Sep 18 (IANS) Chinese President Xi Jinping got a taste of Gujarati culture and cuisine on the Sabarmati riverfont as he was given a grand welcome on his arrival here Wednesday, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi walking the last mile to be the perfect host ahead of their substantive talks in the national capital on boosting bilateral ties.
Xi, who flew in to Gujarat’s commercial capital from Colombo on a three-day visit, was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport, where he was received by Chief Minister Anandiben Patel.
Modi took over as the host as soon as the Chinese president and his wife Peng Liyuan arrived at the Hotel Hyatt.
After welcoming the Chinese president and his wife with bouquets, Modi took Xi around a pictorial gallery featuring the prime minister’s hometown Vadnagar, and explained its Buddhist links to the visiting leader.
The two sides then held brief talks after which three agreements were concluded related to the region.
The MoUs include making China’s Guangzhou city and Ahmedabad sister cities, setting up of an industrial park in the state and another twinning agreement between Guangdong province and Gujarat government for development of cultural and social ties.
With the official engagement of the day over, Modi played the perfect host as he took Xi on a conducted tour around Sabarmati Ashram that was set up by Mahatma Gandhi June 17, 1917, on the banks of the Sabarmati river.
Xi was also invited by Modi to sit on the ground and try his hand at Mahatma’s charkha on which he would spin cotton to signify the self-reliance of Indians.
The prime minister presented Xi with a book “Gandhi in Amdavad” published by the ashram, a replica of Mahatma Gandhi’s charkha and a historic picture of Gandhi’s famous Dandi march.
Both Xi and Modi sat for a while at the Hriday Kunj where Mahatma Gandhi spent a good period of time.
Modi explained the significance of the ashram and the gifts while presenting them to Xi, with an official translating Modi’s words to Chinese.
Xi paid tributes to Mahatma Gandhi and also wrote in the visitor’s book.
The visit to the Sabarmati riverfront saw Xi and his wife enjoying every moment as Gujarati folk dancers in colourful attire performed.
The couple took a stroll along the banks of the river that has been developed into a landscaped park with fountains and tents and other modern amenities.
Modi kept up a constant conversation with Xi as they strolled along the riverfront, inviting him to sit with him on a swing made from Sankheda wood, pointing out things of significance to the Chinese first couple, and even clapping to the tabla beat during a folk dance performance.
Chinese first lady Peng Liyuan, a noted singer, seemed to enjoy the colourful extravaganza, and during a folk performance was seen tapping to the tabla beats.
The two leaders spent more than 55 minutes at the river front.
Modi rounded off the day by hosting a private dinner for the Chinese president and his wife at the Sabarmati Riverfront Park. The day also marked Modi’s 64th birthday.
A staggering 150 Gujarati dishes were on the menu for the dinner, prepared by a team of experts from different parts of Gujarat and Taj Hotel teams from Mumbai and Delhi.
Modi’s personal cook Badri, who has been cooking for the prime minister for over 15 years, oversaw the food section.
The two leaders later left for Delhi.
On Thursday, Modi and Xi would hold talks at the Hyderabad House, which would be followed by the inking of several agreements, including on infrastructure and railways.
China is set to invest heavily in India’s infrastructure sector by inking agreements in the sphere of highways, railways, and industrial zones.
This would help address the imbalance in the annual bilateral trade, which totals around $65 billion but is skewed in favour of China.
The Chinese president’s visit comes amid fresh transgression by Chinese troops in Chumur sector of Ladakh earlier this week.
More than 200 soldiers of the People’s Liberation Army last week entered what India considers its territory, and used cranes and bulldozers to build a 1.9-km road, according to reports.
The armed forces of the two sides held a flag meeting at the border Wednesday to resolve the standoff.
In New Delhi, police detained a group of Tibetan protesters from outside the Chinese embassy.