shinzo makes time for friends
TAPANESE Prime Minister Shinzo Abe did the aarti in Varanasi along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his recent visit in December. One was surprised to see Shinzo wearing a beautiful yellow jacket, shedding his traditional suit and tie. Shinzo was gifted the jacket by none other than his friend, Vibhav Kant Upadhyay, who heads the India Center Foundation. Sources disclosed that Shinzo had been asked to wear the jacket during the aarti and not while travelling with Modi; Shinzo respected the advisory. When a dignitary like Shinzo visits India officially, there is no scope for a common citizen to interact with him. Shinzo has established a good rapport with the India Center Foundation. Shinzo and Upadhyay know each other for the last 20 years. And so Shinzo took time off from official engagements and met Upadhyay’s influential friends—Dr Vivek Lall, Global CEO, General Atomics; Rajesh V Shah, Co-Chairman and Managing Director, Mukand Ltd; Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, Founder and Managing Director, VPS Healthcare; Vivek Nair, Vice Chairman and MD, Hotel Leela; and Saleem lqbal Shervani, former Minister of State, Foreign Affairs, Government of India. At the meeting, Shinzo said, “The role of the India Center in the India-Japan relationship is significant. The foundation has been working for a very long time in ideating and authoring initiatives including but not limited to the Varanasi-Kyoto partnership, DMIC and the high-speed train. In 2005, I visited India just ahead of the visit by the then Prime Minister, Junichiro Koizumi. At that time, Vibhav and I visited many key policy leaders, including the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, and conveyed these ideas and initiatives.” Shinzo is now the Prime Minister of Japan but he has not forgotten his friendship with those who stood by him and, irrespective of diplomatic nuances, he kept his word to Upadhyay.