Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday took a heritage walk and visited the Golden Temple soon after arriving in this holy town to attend the Heart of Asia conference.
Modi and Ghani walked through the renovated heritage corridor before reaching Harmandir Sahib, popularly known as Golden Temple, where large number of people, waiting for hours, welcomed them.
The temple premise was decorated with lights and flowers and the two leaders were taken to various parts of the temple complex.
Ghani and Modi also offered prayers at the temple. They spent over 30 minutes braving cold weather. Modi also served Langar in the community kitchen of the shrine as Ghani stayed along with him.
The two leaders were given a 24 carat gold replica of Golden Temple and a set of five books besides a ‘siropa’ (robe of honour) and shawl. Modi’s visit to the Golden Temple is seen by some as an attempt to connect with the Sikh community ahead of elections in the state next year.
Earlier in the evening, Ghani was received at the airport by Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar.
Ghani and Modi will jointly inaugurate the Heart of Asia Ministerial conference tomorrow. They will also have a bilateral meeting during which both sides are likely to finalise broad contours of a bilateral air cargo service pact to boost trade.
In the meeting, Afghanistan is also likely to seek enhanced supply of military hardware from India in strengthening its armed forces.
Afghanistan has been trying to revamp its military to fight the resurgent Taliban after drawdown of NATO forces began nearly two years back.
Last week India had given to Afghanistan the last of the four military helicopters. India has trained hundreds of Afghan security personnel but has been adopting a cautious approach in providing weapons.
Afghanistan has also been seeking India’s assistance in making functional Soviet-era helicopters and transport aircraft which were not in flying condition and the issue may figure in tomorrow’s talks.
India and Afghanistan has also been exploring various connectivity projects to for greater two-way trade and the issue may figure in tomorrow’s talks.
In May, India, Iran and Afghanistan had signed an agreement to set up a trade and transport corridor with Chabahar in Iran as the hub with an aim to develop a transit corridor.