AHMEDABAD, Sep 17 (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 Modi's hometown Vadnagar, and explained its
Buddhist links to the visiting leader.
Seventh century Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang had visited Vadnagar during his 15-year stay in India.
The two sides then held brief talks after which three agreements were concluded related to the region, including on setting up a Chinese industrial park.
With the official engagement of the day over, Modi played the perfect host as he took Xi on a conducted tour around Sabarmati Ashram and explained the significance of
the place 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 tribute 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 scintillating folk dance performances included Mer Rass of the Mer community of Gujarat's Porbandar region, and a tribal pyramid by artistes from Dang, a tribal
region in south Gujarat.
Xi and his wife were escorted to the traditional charpai by Modi. Both Xi and Peng enquired about the linen design, said sources.
Modi walked up to the river bank where he briefed the Chinese president about the history of the river.
The two leaders spent more than 55 minutes at the river front. Modi then left Xi and Peng at the special Kutch handicraft designed royal tent for rest.
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
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