On August 6, the Lok Sabha stood in silence in memory of the victims of the 1945 atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I was honoured to be invited by the Hon’ble Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Sumitra Mahajan, together with representatives of the Japanese community in Delhi and we all prayed for the victims and for peace. We are deeply grateful to the members of the Indian Parliament for continuing to pay homage to the victims 70 years after the bombings. To the best of my knowledge, India is the only country in the world to do so for decades. This rare and sustained gesture is not just widely recognised and highly appreciated in Japan. It also touches the hearts of the Japanese people.
This expression of solidarity is among a long list of heart-warming interactions between Japan and India. Since the end of World War II, we have extended spiritual, moral and practical support to each other, contributing to reconstruction and development.
It is still well remembered that in 1949, the then-Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sent an elephant as a gift to the children of the devastated Japan.
Export of high-quality iron ore from India to Japan, which resumed in the late 1940s and still continues to this day, greatly supported Japan’s post-war reconstruction.
When Japan started its Official Development Assistance (ODA) in 1950s, India became the first recipient of its Yen Loan Assistance. In the subsequent decades, the Japanese ODA expanded to include a wide range of areas and projects, such as the Delhi Metro and the Indian Institute of Technology in Hyderabad (IIT-H).
Two Japanese doctors, Dr. Matsuki Miyazaki and Prof. Mitsugu Nishiura, led the research and treatment of leprosy in India at the India Centre of Japan Leprosy Mission for Asia (JALMA) in the 1960s and 70s. The institution was built in Agra in 1963 with donations from Japanese citizens and was handed over to the Indian government in 1970s. The graves of the two doctors are located on its premises.
We have also helped each other in times of need. In 1991, Japan extended the balance of payment support to India. When the Great Earthquake hit Japan in 2011, India extended a helping hand to Japan by providing donations and relief goods and by sending a National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) team to disaster-stricken areas in Japan.
As these positive episodes with India show, Japan has devoted itself to development and prosperity as well as stability in the region and the rest of the world in a consistent manner since the end of the war. In his August 14 statement on the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated that Japan has the great responsibility to take the lessons of history deeply into our hearts, and to make all possible efforts for the peace and prosperity of Asia and the world. He also expressed Japan’s heartfelt gratitude to all the nations, including India, and all the people who made every effort for reconciliation after the war.
In the decades-old friendly relationship between Japan and India, marked progress and expansion have been made in recent years. We are now the second and the third largest economies in Asia. We share fundamental values such as democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. We are located in crucial positions in the Indo-Pacific region, which is of growing strategic importance. Our relationship has now been elevated to the Special Strategic and Global Partnership. As Prime Minister Abe called it, our relationship is “blessed with the largest potential” for further development.
The ever growing relationship between Japan and India is beautifully symbolised by the magnificent Bodhi tree on the premises of our Embassy in New Delhi, planted in 1960 by Their Imperial Highnesses, the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Japan, now Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress. The two countries’ relationship remains firmly rooted in a long history of cultural ties, mutual respect and goodwill and we need to work together to let it further flourish and branch out to incorporate new domains of partnership.
(Takeshi Yagi is the Japanese Ambassador to India.)