Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko pose for the photographers with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur on their arrival at AFS Palam in New Delhi
On Monday, the Imperial Couple will attend a ceremonial reception at the official residence of President Pranab Mukherjee in New Delhi and visit Raj Ghat, a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. Later in the day, the president will hold a state banquet for them
The Times of India.com
The Emperor's pathway to India's heart
30 November 2013, 09:21 PM IS
If in 1960 Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru received the visiting Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko, 53 years later, a Nehruvian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, receives the same couple, now the Emperor and Empress, having ascended the throne in 1990.
What a coincidence.
It must be a result of his good karma for Japan, as he is indisputably the most popular and respected Indian leader in the Land of the Rising Sun. The speech he gave in Tokyo this year in May is reflective of his special feelings for the Japanese people. He mentioned Japan as an inspiration to India and envisioned a path of strategic cooperation, specially marking the maritime region. He said: "Asia's resurgence began over a century ago on this island of the Rising Sun.
Ever since, Japan has shown us the way forward. India and Japan have a shared vision of a rising Asia. Japan's rise as a modern, knowledge-based industrial power was a source of inspiration to India's great national leaders." Nothing defines better the warmth and cordiality between india and Japan than the age-old cultural and civilizational ties. Shintoism, too akin to the Hindu beliefs, and the patriotic fervour of an average Japanese inspired Indian monks like Swami Ramtirth and Swami Vivekananda, made an everlasting influence on writers like Rabindranath Thakur and powered revolutionaries like Subhas Chandra Bose. The economic and industrial relations might have witnessed delayed milestones, yet an average India grew on feelings of admiration for the Japanese products and friendliness. I
t is on these trusted foundations that Tenno Heika (His Majesty the Emperor) and Kogo Heika (Her Majesty the Empress) get a hearty Namaste from a billion-plus Indians. It's difficult for the ever revolting and 'eager to break tradition' new generation of India to understand the awe and reverence with which people in Japan look at their emperor and empress. In spite of a new constitution and the reduction in the powers of the royalty, their majesties are considered divine and even a letter handed over to them invites wide spread criticism and ridicule. Some time back when a young actress turned legislature suddenly gave a letter over Fukushima disaster to the Emperor, there were demands from all quarters that she should be asked to resign.
The Emperor himself is credited with breaking the tradition when he married a commoner; strictly the royalty is expected to marry only in the families of Japanese nobility. Both meet the common people as much as they can. The emperor, 79, underwent a bypass surgery last year, so Empress Michiko shoulders most of the burden of attending rituals and formal programmes on his behalf, yet its amazing to find that both attended more than 300 events last year.
Their India visit is considered a proactive gesture by Prime Minister Shinjo Abe's government, which is keen to enhancing and strengthening India ties with a traditional strategic fervour. Abe mesmerized Indian parliamentarians when he addressed them in the Central Hall in 2007, quoting Dara Shikoh (perhaps the first foreign dignitary to remember the great symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity and Vedic scholarship) and Swami Vivekananda. It's not just 'Abeconomics' that is ensuring increased Japanese investments to India but his long-term maritime strategic policy that must make Indian presence and power in pacific and South China Sea more assertive and secure. Here lies the key to lay the solid foundation of India-Japan strategic ties.
Dr Manmoghan Singh also had emphasized the need for an upgraded cooperation in maritime sphere in his May, 2013, speech in Tokyo. He had, unhesitatingly said, "The Indo-Pacific region is witnessing profound social and economic changes on a scale and at a speed rarely seen in human history ... this region faces multiple challenges, unresolved issues and unsettled questions. Historical differences persist despite our growing inter-dependence; India and Japan are among the major actors in this region. Our shared religious, cultural and spiritual heritage embodies the principles of peace, co-existence and pluralism." He added: "Maritime security across the linked regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans is essential for regional and global prosperity. We should, therefore, uphold the principles of freedom of navigation and unimpeded lawful commerce in accordance with international law, resolve maritime issues peacefully and work together more purposefully to harness the potential of the seas and address common sea-based challenges such as piracy." The Emperor's visit will make the entire Japan focus on India and the rest of the pathway will be cleared flawlessly.
It is important that from the Indian side an old Japan friend Salman Khurshid is appointed as Minister in waiting for the visiting dignitaries. From Japanese side, former Prime Minister Mori's inclusion in the royal entourage is significant. He is credited with laying the solid foundation of India-Japan cooperation in recent times and India has conferred Padma Bhushan on him.
This visit is a good omen for our bilateral ties and should be seen rising above the domestic political differences and ideological disagreements. After all Indian interest must occupy the highest place and hence, as one tricoloured Indians, we all must warmly welcome this visit.