Tokyo/New Delhi: Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko have very fond memories of their last visit to India 53 years ago and the warmth of the greeting they received everywhere in India "still remains deep in our hearts".
In a message expressing his thoughts ahead of the imperial couple's six-day visit that begins Saturday, Emperor Akihito said he still recalls fondly how then president Rajendra Prasad, vice president Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru welcomed them "most graciously in Delhi".
"These leaders had overcome various challenges in leading the country to independence and in the following years since independence. I feel it was profoundly meaningful for us to have had the opportunity to meet with these great leaders when we were young-we were still in our mid-twenties then," he said in his message.
The empress had read the Glimpses of World History, written by Nehru in the form of letters he had sent to his daughter Indira, "and I am sure the Empress has a lasting memory of her conversations with Nehru".
They had travelled from Kolkata (then Calcutta) to Mumbai (then Bombay), visiting various places along the way.
"We were able to experience firsthand the history and culture of the country, deepening our understanding of India. The memory of how warmly we were greeted by so many people during our journey still remains deep in our hearts," the message reads.
During the last visit they had participated in the foundation stone laying ceremony for the India International Centre and would be visiting the institution again this time.
"The visit to this site, and meeting President Pranab Mukherjee whom we met when he was minister of external affairs and with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to renew our acquaintance are some of the many things we are looking forward to on this visit."
"Since gaining independence, India has steadfastly maintained democracy and achieved great development as a nation. I understand that today India is also displaying tremendous strength in Information Technology and many other fields. I hope that this visit will be an occasion to further deepen the understanding of India.
"It is my ardent wish that both our peoples will continue to work together towards progress leading the two nations to develop hand in hand in the years to come," the message reads.
In a sign of the importance India attaches to the imperial visit, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur will receive the royal couple at the airport on Saturday, while External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will be the minister-in-waiting during their six-day visit to New Delhi and Chennai.