When Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur met Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko at the royal palace on Thursday, his first remarks were: “Thank you for bringing a spring into our relationship”. While the Harvard-educated empress spoke to Kaur in English, the king and Singh had to use an interpreter. Akihito’s relations with India go back a long way. He first visited India in 1964 as crown prince.
Belated birthday greetings
Between speaking on the nuclear deal and terrorism, Singh, in his speech at the Diet, also referred to ‘Odori Maharaja’, aka Tamil superstar Ranjikanth. The actor enjoyed a brief period of fame unparalleled by any Indian actor in Japan. His film Muthu was dubbed in Japanese and released there as The Dancing Maharaja in 1998. The former superstar is well past his prime, but to be mentioned in the Diet is a rare honour. And a belated birthday present, since he celebrated his birthday on December 12.
The Japanese prime minister's exalted opinion of Indo-Japan ties notwithstanding, the Japanese media has been rather low-key about Singh's tour. It has not featured on the front page of any major Japanese newspaper, and the Asahi Shimbundid not carry any news about it at all. The Nippon Keizai Shimbun, one of the most prestigious dailies in Japan, accorded Page 3 space to a story about the possibility of a CEPA being announced on Friday. One newspaper that did carry a sizeable story on the tour was the Sankei Shimbun, which laid emphasis on the need for Japan to make up for lost time as India has been forging relations with China and Russia under its omni-directional foreign policy.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said India and Japan's bilateral relations are the most important in the world. Speaking at the inaugural function of the India-Japan Friendship Year 2007 and India-Japan Tourism Exchange Year 2007, he said: “I renew my determination that we have to nurture and develop the relationship between our two countries are the most important bilateral relationship in the world." He also praised India as "the oldest democracy in Asia and one of the most rapidly developing economies in Asia."