My view concerning the Indo-Japanese relations which have started a new chapter following our PM’s visit
While campaigning during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Shri Narendra Modi called for a change in the nation’s foreign policy. Within 100s days of our Government taking charge, there has been a visible change in the way our foreign relations.
For long we have heard Asia will lead the twenty-first century, but that is not possible without the nations of Asia coming together and forming a united front to tackle international issues ranging from economic slowdown to climate change, security to cultural diversity.
It is with this vision in mind that Honorable Prime Minister selected Japan to be the destination of his first bilateral visit outside South Asia. We have often heard of the Japanese being a very work-centric community. This aspect of them is well understood by our honorable Prime Minister, who aims to be the Prime Mazdoor for our country. For his part, the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made the extraordinary gesture of travelling to Kyoto to meet PM Modi. The embracing of the two Prime Ministers is the essence of cultural kinship, shared heritage, vision to succeed and of course most importantly of a profound resolute friendship between Asia’s second and third largest economies.
Not only is Japan a vital partner of India in its quest for rapid transformation, both nations as stable democracies can play an influential role in shaping the future of Asia and by extension the world. The respected PM initiated his visit to Japan on a significant note with a pact being signed under which his constituency the revered Varanasi will be developed as a ‘smart city’, with cooperation and experience of Kyoto, the ‘smart city’ of Japan which itself is a convergence of heritage and modernity. The pact is in line with PM Modi’s vision of building 100 smart cities across India.
Moreover, it is high time the temple city of Varanasi embraces modernization, but without losing any of its pristine character. It is important we learn from Kyoto which is one of the renowned hubs of technology and academics in Japan besides being a centre of ten thousand shrines. It is to credit to the administrators and people of Kyoto that the city has been able to conserve its heritage sites while at the same time developing itself as a symbol of technological proficiency. In Kyoto, the past is embraced by the present as both prepare to welcome the future. Hence, I find hope in the fact that the first step towards revamping Varanasi has been taken in Japan. PM Modi has not only trounced policy paralysis which kept the UPA government bogged down but has also been able to send the right signal to Japan that India is one of the prime destination for investment.
As a result on 1 September, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his intention to release a package of 3.5 trillion Yen, (which is over Rs. 2 crores) public and private investment and financing to India over the next five years. This large amount just goes on to show Japan’s committed support in all areas of India’s development, such as improving health facilities, roads, research in alternate energy among many.
One important area that both Prime Ministers discussed was the issue of civil nuclear cooperation. Both PM Abe and PM Modi have agreed to instruct our negotiators to work promptly to conclude the negotiations at an early date so that we can further reinforce our strategic partnership.
Nevertheless, it is not only about signing pacts and making deals. Those are done with business partners not cherished friends. Our bond with Japan goes back to the early 6th century when the Indian monk Bodhisena landed there and disseminated the teachings of Lord Buddha. Buddhism and the inherently linked Indian culture had a great impact on Japan, which is still felt today.
The galaxy of Gods honored in Sanatan Dharma like Saraswati, Ganesha and Mahadeva are part of the traditional Japanese Buddhist pantheon. Our classical language Sanskrit, is still used by many of Japan’s erudite priests and the Siddhaṃ script is still written to this day, despite having passed out of usage in India.
It is now time that we also learn something from Japan, as Swami Vivekananda once correctly opined:
“If all our rich and educated men once go and see Japan, their eyes will be opened…the Japanese had taken everything from the Europeans, but they remain Japanese all the same”
The cultural kinship of India and Japan was displayed very well byPM Modi when he visited two prominent ancient Buddhist temples Toji and Kinkakuji in Kyoto where besides offering prayers he also mingled with the tourists. PM Abe returned the gesture by having a Chai Pe Charcha with PM Modi in Tokyo.
When we hear a certain neighbor spreading a string of pearls to unjustly increase its influence over Asia, it is impertinent that two stable democracies walk the path of progress as underscored by our Prime Minister’s statement:
“The world is divided into two streams — one of vistarvaad (expansionism) and the other of vikasvaad (development). Vikasvaaad is the way ahead… We have to decide whether we want the world to be caught in the clutches of expansionism or should take the path of development.”