South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Sunday evening arrived in India on a four-day state visit. Soon after his arrival, he visited the Akshardham Temple.
The president, accompanied by his wife Kim Jung-sook, arrived at the sprawling temple premises this evening from the Delhi airport and spent an hour there, admiring its iconic architecture and listening to the stories behind it design.
The two visiting dignitaries entered the temple premises through its beautiful Bharat Upwan, and were welcomed with garlands, a 'tika' and 'kalwa' (holy thread) on the wrist in front of the Mayur Swagat Dwar by Sadhu Gnanmunidas, Swami of the temple.
"I am very delighted to visit this grand temple as part of the first leg of my visit. After, seeing this, the feeling that I get is that India and Korea may be having different cultures, but the two countries share commonalities in values such as peace, harmony and unity in diversity," Moon said.
The Korean president, after arriving at the Swaminarayan Akshardham Temple, billed as the 'World's Largest Comprehensive Hindu Temple', posed for pictures and then went to the main temple where he paid floral tribute at the sanctum sanctorum and performed its 'parikrama' (circumambulation).
"The president admired the architecture, and he looked at the detailed carvings on its domed ceilings, pillars and the Gajendra Pithika ('elephant plinth') and exclaimed that the work seems 'beyond human capacity'. He really appreciated the craftsmanship that went into its making," Sadhu Gnanmunidas, told PTI.
He received the president at the temple and also gave him a tour of the temple complex that was built in 2005, and is one of the most-visited cultural sites in the country.
The South Korean leader admired the 'Gajendra Pithika' that includes 148 life-sized carved stone elephants.
Over the next two days, Moon would be meeting President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
On Monday, he is scheduled to meet Sushma Swaraj and visit Samsung Electronics facility in Noida.
On Tuesday, he would be accorded ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan followed by a meeting with Naidu. The same day, he would meet Modi.
A spokesperson in Moon’s office in Seoul had said the leaders will focus on expanding “future-oriented cooperation” between the two countries. “India is fast becoming a major power with the fastest-growing economy in Asia. It is also a key nation for cooperation under the New Southern Policy that our government is actively pursuing,” he said, according to Korean news agency Yonhap. There has been an upswing in India’s defence cooperation with South Korea and both sides are expected to explore ways to enhance it. India and South Korea would sign various agreements following delegation level talks.
Narendra Modi and President Moon will together visit the Gandhi Smriti. Thereafter, they will also visit a Samsung plant in Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
Moon will also attend an India-Korea Business Forum on July 9. Moon will be accorded with a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on July 10.
The two leaders will also address the India-South Korea CEOs Roundtable. Some agreements are also expected to be signed. In the evening, Moon will meet President Ram Nath Kovind, who will host a banquet for the visiting dignitary and his delegation at the Rashtrapati Bhawan. On the morning of July 11, Moon will depart from New Delhi.
PM Modi had visited Seoul in May 2015, which helped elevate India-South Korea relations to a ‘Special Strategic Partnership’.
Moon’s visit to India comes nearly a month after the historic summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore. The situation on the Korean peninsula is likely to figure in his talks with Modi.
The South Korean President is scheduled to leave for Singapore after concluding his visit here.