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Shinzo Abe visits Netaji Bhavan, sees notion of a ‘Broader Asia’

Staff Reporter

Netaji is a much respected name in Japan, says visiting Prime Minister

— Photo: Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury

Token of past: Krishna Bose, a family member of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, presenting the photographs of Netaji to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the Netaji Bhavan in Kolkata on Thursday.

Kolkata: The notion of a ‘Broader Asia’ has enough resonance in history as Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discovered when he visited the Netaji Bhavan, ancestral house of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, here on Thursday.

“Mr. Abe walked through the museum inside the Bhavan. He pointed at a picture of Netaji speaking on Asian solidarity at the Greater East Asia Conference in 1944, where he had spoken of the need for Japan and India to assume leading roles in Asia,” said Krishna Bose, former Member of Parliament and widow of Sisir Bose, Netaji’s nephew.

Mr. Abe, who had talked of a ‘Broader Asia’ in his address to a joint session of Parliament in New Delhi on Wednesday, later said that relations between India and Japan would be strengthened, especially if the contributions made by individuals like Netaji were remembered. Netaji is a much respected name in Japan, he said.

Mr. Abe, who had expressed a desire to visit Kolkata as he felt deeply attached to Rabindranath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and Netaji, was also overwhelmed by the collection of memorabilia displayed in the museum, a lot of which have been sourced from Japan.

“Mr. Abe spent a lot of time in the Asia room, looking at photographs of Netaji with Indian and Japanese dignitaries,” Ms. Bose said. “He also visited Netaji’s study room, where the latter worked as Congress president, and where the walls are still tri-coloured.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Abe inaugurated an Indo-Japanese cultural centre, where he stressed the long-standing, deep-rooted cultural relations.

The centre, to be known as the Rabindra-Okakura Bhavan, has been named after Rabindranath Tagore and Okakura Tenshin. The latter also was a champion of Asian solidarity who had stated that “Asia is one” in the opening paragraph of his book, Ideals of the East.

Radhabinod Pal lauded

“The people of Japan love Radhabinod Pal [1886-1967] and still hold him in the highest esteem,” Mr. Abe reportedly told the son of the lone member of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East to have found not guilty all those accused in the famous Tokyo War Crimes Trial (1946-48).

Mr. Abe and Prosanto Pal (81) met at a hotel.

Mr. Pal told The Hindu that he presented Mr. Abe with a copy of a rare group photograph taken during a visit to Japan in October 1966 in which his father is seen with the former Japanese Prime Minister (1957-60), Nobusuke Kishi, who se daughter is Mr. Abe’s mother.

It was in 1966 that Radhabinod Pal was awarded Japan’s highest civilian order, ‘The First Order of Sacred Treasure,’ by the Japanese Government, he said.

“Highest regard”

That Mr. Abe had wished to meet him during his brief visit to Kolkata “is the highest regard shown to my father and something I could not have imagined,” Mr. Pal said.

“The Prime Minister told me that the new generation in Japan knew little about my father but they might have got to learn of him after a documentary on him shot by a government agency was telecast in that country on August 14,” Mr. Pal said.

“The day of the telecast marked the 62nd anniversary of the Japanese Army deciding that far too many innocent lives had been lost on the two occasions atom bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9 [in 1945] to fight on in the Second World War. A day later the Japanese surrendered,” Mr. Pal recalled.

“A year later my father got a telegram from Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for Allied Powers, appointing him as judge in the International Military Tribunal for the Far East.

Later, exonerating all those being tried of war crimes, he was to say ‘the only crime that Japan had committed was that they had lost the war’ and that international law had yet to define that war is a crime.”

“Overwhelmed”

“What I told Mr. Abe was that I will not live much longer but tell your people how overwhelmed I and my family are at the privilege of meeting you,” Mr. Pal said.

“What he had to say was that ‘we believe that the friendship between India and Japan will last for much, much longer,’” he added.

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