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"May I, on behalf of the people and the Government of India, once again extend to Your Excellency and the distinguished members of your delegation, a warm welcome to our country. We have been looking forward to this visit, which gives us the opportunity to renew the spirit of goodwill and mutual regard that exists between our countries and to chart out new directions for the expansion of our bilateral ties.
Our contacts with Japan date back to ancient times. It is on the strong foundation of these age-old spiritual, cultural and civilizational ties that we are striving to build a contemporary relationship. One that is based on our shared commitment to the ideals of democracy, peace and freedom.
It is a noteworthy fact that though we have gone through various phases in our relationship, in times of difficulty, we have stood by each other. It is important to recall that India refused to attend the San Francisco Peace Conference in 1951 and signed a separate Peace Treaty with Japan in 1952. This Pandit Nehru felt, gave to Japan a proper position of honour and equality among the community of free nations. In that Peace Treaty, India waived all reparation claims against Japan.
The dissenting judgement of Justice Radha Binod Pal is well-known to the Japanese people and will always symbolize the affection and regard our people have for your country.
On the other hand, I recall that in 1991, when I was Finance Minister, Japan played a very supportive role to help us tide over the economic crisis. It was as a result of such friendly support that India was able to emerge from the crisis and to subsequently embark on the path of economic reform that has changed the face of the economy.
Japan has also provided us valuable assistance for the development of basic industries like fertilizers, petro-chemicals and automobiles. We greatly appreciate the fact that India is today the largest recipient of Japan's ODA.
It is an opportune moment to build on this past history of very cordial bilateral interaction. Today, when we seek to come closer, the time has come to renew and reinvigorate our Asian identity, building on the commonalities of our interests, aspirations and values.
The challenge that we face today in India is to devise a model of strategic intervention that centres around fulfilling the basic needs and concerns of the common man but where the State places no oppressive burden on the creative spirit of free enterprise.
In this context we have much to learn from the economic miracle that has brought such prosperity to the people of Japan. Your success has been greatly admired in India. Many of the factors behind your success such as the optimal use of limited resources, the innovative use of market forces and the maintenance of harmony and balance between social traditions and economic modernization are very relevant. We hope to imbibe these values.
We believe that there has been a paradigm change in the political ambience of our relations in recent years. It is thus only befitting that we have decided during your visit to add a new strategic focus to our Global Partnership and to deepen and widen our cooperation in the "New Asian Era". We see this as a many-layered initiative encompassing diverse areas of our interaction.
In particular we want to reduce the psychological and other barriers that prevent fuller exploitation of the immense potential that lies untapped in our economic ties. The business communities of the two countries must be induced to invest in this relationship and be persuaded that it is an economic opportunity to do so.
We recognize Japan's contributions to world peace and development. We share the belief that both India and Japan should play their rightful and commensurate role in international affairs. It is on the basis of this understanding that we have made common cause in the process of reform of the United Nations.
Today is Greenery Day in Japan. I recall the words of the great Japanese scholar Okakura Tenshin that "...the raindrops of new vigour must refresh the earth before new flowers can spring up to cover it with their bloom. But it must be from Asia herself....... that the great voice shall be heard..."
I am convinced that it is time for us to come together to build a new Asian era of enduring peace and prosperity. It is with this hope that I now request you to join me in a toast:
Ø to the health of His Excellency Mr. Junichiro Koizumi, Prime Minister of Japan
Ø to the prosperity and well-being of the peoples of Japan, and
Ø to the friendship between India and Japan."