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SOURCE: IANS

Japan’s Ambassador to India Hiroshi Suzuki on Wednesday said that Nagaland’s people, who had nothing to do with World War II, inevitably had to go through a great ordeal where many were coerced into cooperation while many lost their lives and most were forced to flee from the land of their ancestors.

In his address at the inaugural programme of the Kohima Peace Memorial and Eco-Park where he was the special guest, he expressed his deepest sympathy and condolences to the people of Nagaland who were caught in the conflict during the war between Japanese forces and the British Commonwealth Forces 80 years ago.

The envoy further added that he was deeply honoured to witness the inauguration of the Kohima Peace Memorial and that the “monument enabled us to offer our most solemn prayers to all the victims of the battle”.

Expressing his gratitude to the people of Nagaland for their support provided to the Kohima-Japan Bone collection team for enabling former soldiers and their families to collect the remains of fallen soldiers, Hiroshi said that the Eco-Park would be developed as part of the Nagaland Forest Management Project with Official Development Assistance (ODA) from the Japanese government.

He expressed his sincere gratitude to Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio and the state’s people for erecting the peace memorial and hoped it would be a reason for more Japanese people to visit Kohima.

“I am convinced that the friendship originally fostered through the collection of the remains between Japan and Nagaland would be further strengthened through the construction of the Eco-Park as well as the exchange of young people, and they would become new bridges between India and Japan, ” he said.

Chief Minister Rio said that the event marked an important milestone in the narrative of the Naga-Japan partnership, which, though starting under conflict, had today matured into one advocating peace and brotherhood of humanity, the message that has been embodied by the Kohima Peace Memorial.

He expressed his admiration for Japan’s perseverance and industriousness and how it has shown the world what can be achieved through dedication, precision and hard work.

Rio highlighted how Nagaland’s association with Japan had started almost five decades ago, through the Japan Association for the recovery and repatriation of war remains, and how the relationship has now matured into bilateral cooperation “under which we have two ongoing Externally Aided Projects in the forestry and medical sectors”.

He said that the Eco-Park, once completed, would turn out to be a critical centre of urban space and public utility and the park would also become a testament to the collaboration between the people of Japan and India, especially the Naga people, and would strengthen bonds, enhance bilateral ties and open opportunities for the citizens of the two countries to always pursue common goals.

Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Village Guards Minister C. L. John thanked all officials and dignitaries who have travelled all the way from Japan and Delhi to attend the inauguration of the Kohima Peace Memorial and Eco-Park.

Highlighting how 70 per cent of the state population is engaged in agriculture, mostly the traditional method of ‘jhum’ (shifting cultivation) which is a major reason for the loss of forest cover in Nagaland, he said that in such a situation, the sanctioning of JICA-assisted Nagaland Forest Management Project (NFMP) seems providential in rescuing the rich biodiversity of the state.

The Japanese Ambassador, who began a two-day visit to Nagaland on Tuesday, on Wednesday also visited Kohima village and was shown traditional weaving and folk singing. During a discussion with the village elders and members, Hiroshi acknowledged the Angamis for their hospitality.