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Abe in India for talks with Modi, new high-speed train ceremony

AHMEDABAD, India (Kyodo) -- Prime Minister Shinzo Abe started on Wednesday a two-day visit to India, where he and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi are expected to agree on bolstering bilateral defense and maritime security cooperation amid China's growing assertiveness in regional waters.

    During his stay in Modi's home state of Gujarat, Abe is also scheduled to attend a ceremony in Ahmedabad to mark the beginning of construction of a new high-speed railway employing Japanese bullet train technology. Before taking power in 2014, Modi served as chief minister of Gujarat.

    At Ahmedabad airport, Modi welcomed Abe in person with a hug before they headed for a dinner hosted by the Indian prime minster.

    "I want us to take a big step so that this 'shinkansen' project, which heralded the start of Japan's own rapid economic growth, will serve as a spark for further growth in India," Abe told reporters before leaving from Haneda airport in Tokyo.

    Given China's assertive activities in the East and South China seas as well as the Indian Ocean, Abe and Modi are expected to affirm the importance of collaboration in such fields as defense equipment and trilateral joint drills involving the U.S. Navy, Japanese officials said.

    Abe is keen to agree with Modi on upgrading "two-plus-two" security talks involving vice foreign and defense ministers to a ministerial-level dialogue in light of Beijing's growing influence, Japanese government sources said Tuesday.

    At the summit meeting on Thursday, Japan aims to affirm close cooperation with India to address the threat from North Korea, which conducted a sixth nuclear test recently and has continued to launch ballistic missiles.

    Abe and Modi are also likely to agree on the need to implement a new U.N. Security Council sanctions resolution that imposes the first restrictions on exports of crude oil and petroleum products to North Korea.

    On the economic front, the two leaders will confirm collaboration on infrastructure building in India and assistance for Japanese companies to make inroads into the world's second-most populous country, the Japanese officials said.

    After the meeting, Abe and Modi will sign documents for Japan to provide about 190 billion yen ($1.7 billion) in low-interest loans for the new high-speed railway and other infrastructure projects along with 2.2 billion yen in grants to build a convention center, they said.

    Ahead of the talks, Abe is scheduled to take part in the groundbreaking ceremony for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Railway Project that will use Japan's "shinkansen" bullet train technology.

    India aims for the 500-kilometer railway between the two western cities to begin operating by 2023.

    Abe is seeking the adoption of Japanese technology in other railway systems in the South Asian country, as New Delhi also plans to build high-speed railways connecting the four major cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai.

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