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Akihito returns | The Indian Express

If the army feels it requires continuation of the AFSPA to discharge its responsibilities, no other agency is qualified to credibly challenge that view. As he returns to India after more than five decades this week,Emperor Akihito symbolises the new momentum in the relations between New Delhi and Tokyo. In the early 1960s,when Akihito came to India twice as the crown prince,there was much mutual goodwill between the two nations. But that did not amount to much as India and Japan drifted apart. Today,Delhi and Tokyo are on the cusp of constructing a consequential partnership. The last time Akihito visited Delhi,Japan was well on its way to re-establishing itself in the post-war international order. Japan had become a member of the United Nations in 1956,signed a security treaty with the United States in 1960,and was gearing up to host the 1964 summer Olympics. Japan began to dazzle the world with its breathtaking economic growth as it emerged out of the ashes of World War II. After the prolonged economic stagnation of the 1990s and 2000s,an ageing population,and growing tensions with major neighbours,Japan now faces the danger of being marginalised in Asia. China has overtaken Japan as the largest economy in Asia,and has become assertive in its territorial disputes with Tokyo. Many wonder if the US will defend Japan against a rising China. While it holds on to the alliance with the US,Japan is eager to diversify its strategic partnerships and has reached out to India,Russia,Vietnam,Indonesia and Australia. Unlike some of its Asian neighbours that are wary of Japan,Delhi has no quarrels,historic or otherwise,with Tokyo. Flanking the vast East Asian region,Japan and India see a growing convergence of their strategic interests. NEHRUS LEGACY. Jawaharlal Nehru brought clarity to Indias Japan policy right after World War II. Despite the excesses of Japanese colonialism,Nehru insisted a peaceful Japan must be fully integrated into the post-war Asian order. Nehru invited the Japanese to send a delegation to Delhi in March 1947 to join the Asian Relations Conference,the first diplomatic initiative of emerging India. The delegation did not show up because General Douglas MacArthur,then in charge of the American occupation of Japan,denied permission for travel to Delhi. Nehru,however,persisted and got the Japanese to participate in the First Asian Games that were held in Delhi in 1951. Nehru dissociated Delhi from the victors peace imposed on Japan by the Allies. He waived all Indian claims for war reparations from Japan and signed a separate peace treaty with Tokyo. India was among the first nations to establish diplomatic relations with post-war Japan. Nehru was the second Asian leader,after Burmas U Nu,to visit Tokyo in 1957 when engaging Japan was still a political taboo in the region. ASIAN RIVALRY. The unfolding Sino-Japanese rivalry presents India with a dilemma similar to the one that confronted the Indian national movement in the period between the two World Wars. Most major leaders of Indias nationalist movement strongly supported the idea of Asian unity,but had to cope with the conflict between Japan and China. Nehru,like so many Indian leaders,was deeply inspired by the victory of Japan,the first nation to rise in Asia,over a great European power,Russia,in 1905. The Asia versus Europe paradigm was of no use in coping with Japans occupation of China. Nehru,unlike some others in India,unambiguously rejected Japanese imperialism and its claims to liberate Asia from European colonialism. Nehru extended unflinching solidarity with China as it sought to overthrow the Japanese occupation. But once the war was over,Nehru had no time for the demands in East Asia to isolate Japan. Indias first prime minister was quite clear that Japan must be an integral part of any stable and secure Asian order. He knew that independent Indias interests demanded an intense engagement with post-war Japan. Even as he befriended China in the 1950s,Nehru went out of the way to cultivate cooperation with Japan. As renewed conflict between Japan and China envelops Asia,Indias approach must be guided by the merits of the issues involved,considerations of national interest,and the imperatives of stabilising the Asian balance of power. Above all,it must be informed by Nehrus insight that Asia will be peaceful only when it accommodates Japans legitimate interests. The writer is a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation,Delhi and a contributing editor for The Indian Express.
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