In a message to the wider world, and also to its own people, about the importance of its ties with India, Japan on Tuesday announced the first-ever visit to India by its Emperor and Empress.

According to the tentative schedule, the Japanese royal couple will arrive here on November 30 and leave for Chennai on December 4. They will return to Tokyo the next day.

And on the real-politic front, Japan will expand the strength of its mission here by posting two more military officers, an Air Attache and a Naval Attache. It already has a representative from the Self Defence Forces (Army). The two officers are expected to assume their posts before the end of the year.

The Emperor of Japan is the titular head of the country, but his overseas visits are carefully calibrated and form an important part of Tokyo’s statecraft. For instance, China has been an important country for Japan after World War II. But the Emperor visited the country in 1992 as Tokyo felt its ties were at a take-off stage, pointed out Prof. Lalima Varma of the Centre of East Asian Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

“The Japanese now want India to be an important partner for Japan. This is what they did [send the Emperor on state visits] with some European countries when they felt the need to show extra friendship,” replied Prof. Varma when asked about the symbolism of the Emperor’s visit India.

India and Japan are currently engaged in talks at several levels to step up mutual trust and security, and economic ties. The two have signed a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement, agreed on a first-ever sale of a highly sophisticated dual use amphibious aircraft and agreed to join hands for a mega industrial corridor in India.

The two countries held one round of bilateral naval exercises in June last year and during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to Tokyo, decided to hold a second and expanded edition in the second half of this year off the Indian coast.

In fact, defence exchanges have enjoyed an unusual spring this year. Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Bikram Singh visited Japan in February this year. From the Japanese side, all three service chiefs have visited India over the last eight months or so. “This is unheard of,” an official said.

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