Political and strategic ties to gain momentum?
Yes, it is very much so.
Though the Indian government is too cautious and even too timid it seems to give any background briefing to this high profile, even a very historic visit by a great country’s top royal head, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.
Japan is no ordinary country even otherwise. Every Indian must feel proud for this visit for various equally important reasons. One, the historic ties and relations with Japan. India had had many historic ties. Just even to remind our readers India was more advanced by the middle of the 19th century itself as an Asian nation. In fact, if we need some more history of Japan, Japan was is an Asian country. This we have to remember and remind ourselves many times. Japan had had a very old imperial tradition; in fact, Japanese monarchy is perhaps the oldest and always an independent monarchy in history.
It had the first impact of the West and it went on a process of modernisation in the mid 19th century. Japan, we have to also know, was the first Asian country to defeat a European country, namely, Russia in 1904. This led to the rise of Japanese nationalism in a big way. Readers of Tagore’s lectures on “Nationalism and his warbinbgs arise out of his visit to Japan and his lectures there.
China, on the other hand in the relevant historic period, was still under the occupation of foreign powers and Chinese springs of nationalism, as exemplified by the life and times and work of the great Chinese nationalist leader Sun-Yat-sen owe much to the developments in Japan. Sun Yat Sen went to Japan for his education and so followed later by his deputy, namely, none other than the nationalist leader, Chiang Kei Shek; both married the sisters, the famous Soong sisters!
They learnt Japanese language and it is a curious fact that Sun didn’t know English till later times, as he knew only Japanese as the only foreign language!
To cut the story short, it was Sun who, after having learnt his own nationalism from what he saw in Japan he came back and organised and later proclaimed the Chinese Nationalist Republic in 1911.
Now, the story is entirely different today.
Today, there is a standoff between Japan and China! Over the disputed islands of the Japanese in the East China Sea. Readers would gain much if they have a look at the world atlas. The China mainland is a huge mass of territory. Right in the east of Beijing you see the two Koreas. Further east lies the Japanese islands. Right down the Japanese islands, reaching very near Taiwan lies the clutch of islands variously called in Japanese and Chinese languages. This long time disputed territorial claims needn’t concern us here.
Now China just a few days ago declared an air defence zone, called Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) and hence there is tension lately. Both America and Japan have flown their aircraft after this declaration and China had refrained from further action.
This is the current context in which the Japanese Emperor chose to pay a formal and even we can say a high-profile visit to India. Japan is now under a very experienced political leader, the Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, is a veteran politician, his own father had been the Prime Minister and there is a great deal of nationalist fervour right now for various reasons in Japan.
Japan is a highly developed country, its economy, reached the 2nd position after America and now it is ranked as 3rd after China. China is now emerging as the world’s most powerful economy and maybe it is also seen as a very powerful political power.
We have visited China only recently and we can say many things that are positive about China’s economic, political and even social developments there. Also, there are much information to give to the Indian readers who, can we say, have been kept under multiple mispropagation, misinformation also.
First, what we get from the Indian government’s pronouncements, especially under Manmohan Singh’s regime here, we can’t take them all at their face value. For one thing, we are rather a very subdued nation under the present regime, not by any stretch of imagination we can say we are a forward looking nation with a sense of independent values of our own political and economic place in the sun, so to say.
We haven’t spelt out our foreign policy so far and we haven’t even debated openly or subtly at any high levels. Are we a non-aligned nation? Or, are we aligned with any new perspective with the current international perspectives. Say with a friendly USA on the one side and a friendly China and Japan in the East. Such questions might create uneasiness in various circles.
The point is that we have to come to terms with the new world scenario. So, we have to spell out if not immediately. At least in the coming years we have to spell out our positions on various strategic matters. Now, the Japanese Emperor is on the Indian soil as we write these lines. There is talk of civil nuclear co-operation.
The Japanese are very sensitive to nuclear weapons making strategies. The Japanese want India to sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) and India is averse to such request. So, how do we go about the nuclear co-operation?
Also, as for China, we have our own border problem with China. Also, India has to go about certain other issues in the South East Asian region. There is also, in our opinion, the past history.
Many Indians, nay, even scholars and experts might not know or care to examine the history of the Second World War in which Japanese army came almost across the Indian border, near Kohima where, incidentally, our own President went recently and paid his homage to the soldiers paid their lives.
No one has said so far that India didn’t fight Japanese army as an independent country. India was a colony then. Neither Britain won in the Eastern front.
Japanese surrender in 1945 was to the American forces.
We saw in manila, at the Manila hotel, the room where the world war General Douglas McArthur stayed for six long years and the role American army played in Japan and Philippines.
We now need a new look at India -Japan relations and we need to cultivate as a friendly nation. Let us try to understand the national psychology of the Japanese people and let us try to reach out to the Japanese hearts and minds!
That is the task of the Indian government and the people!