Prime Minister Manmohan Singh receives Japan’s royal couple
Emperor of Japan Akihito accompanied by Empress Michiko arrived in New Delhi on Saturday for a six-day visit described by the Government as “one of the biggest moments in India’s diplomatic engagement this year’’.
This was reflected in Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife receiving the Japanese Royal couple at the airport. This was a rare gesture Dr. Singh had reserved for US President Barack Obama in 2010 and his predecessor George Bush in 2006.
It is the first time that the Emperor and Empress of Japan are coming to India and it is also a first that India has hosted the same two dignitaries on a state visit after a lapse of 50 years. “It has never happened before in the history of independent India,’’ pointed out Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.
Apart from New Delhi, the Emperor will visit Chennai from where he will leave for Tokyo. In Chennai among other engagements, he will meet representatives of Japanese expatriates. The Foreign Office said the selection of Chennai as the second leg of the Emperor’s visit was done by the Japanese while analysts said it reflected the emergence of the metropolis as a centre of concentration for the Japanese industry.
The Minister accompanying the Emperor is Salman Khurshid who had seen the Emperor as a seven-year-old Akihito, then a Prince, on a visit to Bodh Gaya, had called on his grandfather and then Bihar Governor Zakir Hussain.
On Sunday the Emperor’s only engagement is a walk in Lodhi Garden and Monday will be the main day of engagement beginning with a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan followed by a visit to Raj Ghat. The main event of the day will be the meeting with the President, the customary banquet followed by the farewell tete-a-tete. After spending another day in the capital, the Japanese royal couple will leave for Chennai and depart for Japan from there on the night of December 5.
“This visit is very high in symbolism. And the practice in Japan is for the Emperor to be studiously away from political issues and contemporary issues, and we would respect the Japanese sentiments on this,’’ said Shambhu Kumaran, MEA’s Director (East Asia).