India and Japan have enjoyed a relationship spanning 15 centuries, which has been underpinned by a strong civilizational foundation. The gentle message of Lord Buddha was spread throughout the country by Prince Regent Shoutoku, who used the prestige of the Imperial Court to propagate the ideals, which had emanated from India and which had influenced the whole of Asia from Burma to Japan. Temples and shrines that dot the magnificent Japanese archipelago have images of gods and goddesses like Saraswati and Ganesh and other names familiar to the Indian sub-continent.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries these ancient links were reinforced by great spiritual leaders such as Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Vivekananda who travelled to Japan and renewed the message of peace and universal brotherhood that had first come to Japanese shores many centuries earlier.
At the political level, the rapid rise of Japan after the Meiji Restoration of 1868 and its transformation into an industrial country, with a powerful army and navy, impressed many political leaders in India who were struggling against British colonialism. The defeat of the powerful Chinese Empire in 1895 and of Russia, the largest European empire in 1905, at the hands of the Japanese, had a profound effect on national movements in India, Burma, Vietnam and Indonesia. The Indian National Congress split between activists who espoused emulation of Japan and those who preferred more constitutional methods of struggle. Similar struggles at the ideological level emerged under Phan Boi Chau in Vietnam, Sukarno in Indonesia and Aung San in Burma; all these leaders favoured following the Japanese example of using military force.