India and Japan: Walking hand in hand

japanemperor-visitIn what is billed as the most important diplomatic visit of the year for India, Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko begins their six-day visit to India November 30. It is the first visit ever by Japan’s emperor to India. It’s a unique visit in so far as India has hosted the same two dignitaries on a state visit after a lapse of fifty years. Ahead of his visit, Japan’s emperor shares some of his thoughts on India-Japan relations:
“I will soon be visiting India together with the Empress in commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of Japan-India Diplomatic Relations which took place last year.

Our last tour of India was a reciprocal visit following the state visit by His Excellency President Rajendra Prasad to Japan one year after our marriage, 53 years ago. At that time, there were no legal provisions to allow others to temporarily act as proxy for the Emperor in His affairs of state, so Emperor Showa was unable to leave Japan. As a result, it fell on me though concerned about the role I had to fill, to make the reciprocal visit on His behalf.

I still recall fondly how Their Excellencies President Rajendra Prasad, Vice President Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru welcomed us most graciously in Delhi. These leaders had overcome various challenges in leading the country to independence and in the following years since independence. I feel it was profoundly meaningful for us to have had the opportunity to meet with these great leaders when we were young — we were still in our mid-twenties then. As a student, the Empress had encountered Glimpses of World History, a book written by Prime Minister Nehru in the form of letters he had sent to his daughter Indira, and I am sure the Empress has a lasting memory of Her conversations with him. During this visit, we traveled from Kolkata in the east to Mumbai in the west, visiting various places along the way. We were able to experience first-hand the history and culture of the country, deepening our understanding of India. The memory of how warmly we were greeted by so many people during our journey still remains deep in our hearts.

More than half a century has passed since then. The India International Centre which we took part in the ceremony to launch the construction has since been completed and done splendid work. We will be visiting it again on this tour. The visit to this site, and meeting President Pranab Mukherjee whom we met when he was Minister of External Affairs and with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to renew our acquaintance are some of the many things we are looking forward to on this visit.

Since gaining independence, India has steadfastly maintained democracy and achieved great development as a nation. I understand that today India is also displaying tremendous strength in Information Technology and many other fields. I hope that this visit will be an occasion to further deepen the understanding of India. It is my ardent wish that both our peoples will continue to work together towards progress leading the two nations to develop hand in hand in the years to come.”

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