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'Japan emperor's visit to boost closer people ties with India'

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In their first state visit to India, Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will be in the country from Nov 30 for a week, signalling Japan's desire to forge closer bilateral ties, especially between their peoples.

The emperor and empress, both 79, will be visiting New Delhi and Chennai.

"Through the visit we want to bring the people of our two countries closer. The emperor represents the people, and the visit is to forge people-to-people ties between our two countries," a Japanese embassy official said here Wednesday.

The Indian invite was pending for the past decade and was among around 50 invites from other countries. It was officially accepted after the Shinzo Abe government came to power late last year. The Japanese cabinet indicated that the visit be accepted, the official said.

The visit is being seen as a move by to remove any "psychological gaps" that exist in forging closer ties with India, including boosting Japanese investment in India. The emperor and the empress last went on a foreign visit to Britain in 2012.

Former Japanese prime minister Yoshiro Mori would be accompanying the 50-member delegation.

In New Delhi, the royal couple would stay at the Taj Palace Hotel. On Dec 1, they would interact with local people and Japanese expatriates in Lodhi Garden. On Dec 2, they would attend a ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhavan and later meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and also visit Jawaharlala Nehru University. President Pranab Mukherjee is throwing a state banquet the same evening for the Japanese royal couple.

On Dec 3, they would visit the International Centre. Vice President Hamid Ansari would pay a call and also Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj. They depart for Chennai the following day. They would visit the Kalakshetra Foundation and Spastics Society of Tamil Nadu.

The emperor and empress had visited India in Nov-Dec 1960 for their honeymoon when they were crown prince and princess of Japan.

Even at that time, the crown prince and princess were accorded full state protocol with President Rajendra Prasad, vice president S. Radhakrishnan and prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru hosting them. The visiting couple were given a state banquet and visited village Nistoli near Ghaziabad where local residents showered them with petals and applied 'tilak' on their forehead.

In May this year, the emperor and empress, departing from protocol, had hosted lunch for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife, Gursharan Kaur, at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo during Manmohan Singh's official visit there.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe, enjoy good relations. Abe had hosted a private dinner for Manmohan Singh and his wife during the Tokyo visit.

The Japanese prime minister is likely to be the chief guest for India's Republic Day celebrations Jan 26 next year.

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