Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko are scheduled to visit India starting on Saturday on a six-day trip that could a landmark in improved relations between the two countries actively seeking to build a strategic partnership on a strong economic foundation. India is attaching importance to the visit, and the Indian government decided on Wednesday that India’s foreign minister Salman Khurshid should be the minister-in-waiting for the emperor who will also visit Chennai.
The emperor’s visit comes at a time when both India and Japan believe they have experienced Beijing’s high-handedness in their respective regions, and diplomatic sources have been trying to play down any China angle in the emperor’s visit. Visits to other nations by Japan’s emperor, who has no administrative or government related power, are extremely rare and have in the past been used by Tokyo to signal a shift in Japan’s foreign policy. Sources say that it was the Japanese cabinet – led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – which advised the emperor to visit India. There was indeed an invitation from New Delhi, but that had been pending for over 10 years. It was only after Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party assumed power after the December 2012 elections that there was a move to accept the invitation.
According to Japanese sources, visits by the emperor are decided upon on the advice received by the cabinet. It is notable that Abe’s cabinet advised the emperor to visit India amid Abe’s positive remarks on building a strategic partnership with India. During his short tenure as PM in 2006, Abe declared that India-Japan ties had the potential to overtake even Japan-US relations. Again, during his visit to India in 2011, Abe told a gathering that “India’s success is in Japan’s best interests and Japan’s success is in the best interests of India”.
[via India Times]