The common heritage of Buddhism is our oldest bond, says Manmohan
Tokyo: The India-Japan Friendship Year 2007 was on Thursday jointly launched by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, at a colourful function here.
Dr. Singh also declared open a Festival of India in Japan showcasing the vibrancy of the country's diverse culture, the youthful dynamism of contemporary free and open society, and the transformation of the economy.
The festival has been organised by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations, whose president Karan Singh was also present along with the members of the Indian diaspora.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Singh said the friendship year had been launched to mark the 50th anniversary of the cultural agreement between the two countries.
India was looking forward to host the Festival of Japan, which would showcase both modern and traditional Japanese culture.
Describing Mr. Abe as a "valued friend of India," Dr. Singh lauded the Japanese Prime Minister for taking a "keen personal interest" in developing an enhanced partnership between the two countries. He also lauded the efforts of the Indian diaspora for keeping the culture, spirit and idea of India alive in their adopted homeland.
Tamil superstar Rajnikanth's blockbuster Odoru Maharaj (The Dancing Maharaja) came in for a special mention as Dr. Singh addressed Japanese lawmakers.
Referring to the 1995 movie, which was made as Muthu in Tamil, Dr. Singh said he was delighted to hear about its popularity among the young people of Japan.
He added that Japan's Odori Asimo (the dancing robot) was also impressing children in India, a remark that received all-round applause.
Dr. Singh said Japan and India were civilisational neighbours, and "the common heritage of Buddhism is our oldest bond."
The two cultures had been enriched by mutual interaction throughout history, he noted and referred to the visit of Indian monk Bodhisena to Nara over a thousand years ago. In modern times, he said Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin had built new bridges of understanding between the two great Asian nations.
"The idea of new partnership between Japan and India has found its moment today. I come here to give concrete shape to the idea so that the future generations of our countries will be able to thank us for the part we are trying to play in making the 21st century an Asian century," Dr. Singh said. PTI