President Pranab Mukherjee said Tuesday it was wonderful to have Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko back in Rashtrapati Bhavan after 53 years and that their visit was "a historic milestone" in India-Japan bilateral relations.
Addressing the Japanese imperial couple, who called on him at the presidential palace, President Mukherjee said the memories of their earlier visit to India in 1960 as the crown prince and princess of Japan were still fresh in the minds of the people of India, who hold them in the highest esteem.
The president warmly welcomed the royal couple, and conveyed that the people and the Indian government feel honoured by their visit, said a Rashtrapati Bhavan statement Tuesday.
"India deeply values and attaches the highest importance to its close friendship with Japan, which is based on a strong foundation of mutual respect and admiration. Our civilisational ties go back over a millennium. Buddhism is a sacred link. India and Japan have had academic and scholarly exchanges since ancient times. Both countries are presently collaborating in the revival of the Nalanda University," the statement said.
Later, at the banquet speech, the president said the presence of the Emperor and Empress of Japan in India "was a historic milestone in bilateral relations, heralding a further deepening of the time-tested friendship, solidarity and cooperation that have always characterized relations between India and Japan".
Mukherjee also "recollected on the occasion the great sons of India - Swami Vivekananda, Jamshedji Tata, Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Rash Behari Bose and Judge Radha Binod Pal - who have contributed to strengthening the bonds of friendship," said the statement.
"The president said the India-Japan partnership is based on the bedrock of shared values of democracy, the rule of law and individual rights. It symbolises our mutual quest for the progress and prosperity of our people. India and Japan also share a vision of promoting peace and stability, and the two countries stand united in the dream of a new Asia full of promise and opportunities."
The president said the imperial visit "goes beyond the bilateral as we cement together a truly global partnership with converging strategic interests".
He said the visit will give an impetus to the efforts of our two countries and peoples to engage, take new initiatives and elevate our relationship to even greater heights.
The Japanese royal couple is on a six-day state visit to India from Nov 30.