by Vivek Sengupta — December 27, 2013 5:39 pm
Japan reaches out to India like never before. India must reciprocate to make the most of a paradigm shift in Asian power politics.
It is not often that a head of state returns for a formal visit to a country half a century after making his first official trip. Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko of Japan, who have recently concluded a historic six day visit to India, have accomplished just that. They returned to India 53 years after their 1960 sojourn here as the Crown Prince and Princess of Japan. This visit, and the expected visit in January of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe as chief guest at India’s Republic Day Parade, are widely seen as highlights of a transformational new chapter in the traditional ties between the two countries.
India and Japan trace back their civilisational relations to the Buddha and the spread of Buddhism to the Far East in the early centuries of the first millennium. In modern times, many prominent Indians visited Japan in the 1890s and the early decades of the last century. They were immeasurably impressed by what they saw of a resurgent Japan and, in turn, impressed their hosts by their outlook and philosophy. Prominent among these Indian stalwarts were Vivekananda and Tagore. The latter, however, earned the wrath of many Japanese when he took a dim view of Japanese nationalism and imperialism. But that was Tagore, who was just as critical of certain aspects of the Gandhian world-view.
Later, Japan played a key role in India’s freedom struggle by providing invaluable succour and support to nationalists like Rashbehari Bose and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. Indians always recall this support with gratitude. The Japanese, in their turn, remain grateful about what they see as brave support extended by Judge Radhabinod Pal.
Justice Pal’s name may no longer ring a bell in India. But the people of Japan still recall that he was the lone judge in the 11 member international military tribunal who returned a verdict of Not Guilty in the trial of Japan’s top 25 wartime leaders after World War II. When Prime Minister Abe came to India in 2007, he said in his address to the Indian Parliament, “Justice Pal is highly respected even today by many Japanese for the noble spirit of courage he exhibited during the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.” Mr Abe is one of those Japanese. He even travelled to Calcutta to call on the 81-year old son of the late Justice Pal.