Kohima, April 4 (EMN): It was the notes of reconciliation, reaffirmation, and homage to fallen soldiers that marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Kohima on Thursday. The yearlong commemoration of the battle was launched at the Regional Centre of Excellence for Music & Performing Arts in Jotsoma on the theme ‘Remembrance, Reconciliation, and Rebirth.’
The Battle of Kohima was fought in stages from April 4 to June 22, 1944 between the Japanese troops and the British force. The battle is often referred to as the ‘Stalingrad of the East.’
“We should never forget that the peace we enjoy today is built over such tremendous sacrifices. Japan renews its commitment to never repeat the devastation of the war. We look back, in order to look towards the future,” said Kenji Hiramatsu, the Japanese Ambassador to India.
He made a special mention of those who have dedicated themselves to reconciliation. It was because of their effort that the relations between countries that once fought each other have been transformed for the good, he said.
Reciprocating the ‘kind gesture of Nagas’, he said, Japan has established the Act East Forum along with the Foreign Secretary of India for the development of NE region and enable ‘people-to-people exchanges’ among the youth.
“To deepen the ties” between NE region and Japan, he expressed interest in promoting ‘intellectual dialogue.’
The British High Commissioner to India Sir Dominic Anthony Gerard Asquith KCMG in his solidarity message said that the event is to remember the British, Indian and Commonwealth service personnel who lost their lives, alongside the Naga non-combatants who died during the battle. “Their courage and sacrifice helped to change the course of history,” he said.
He re-affirmed that India, Japan, and UK are “committed to facing today’s challenges in partnership” and work together for global peace and prosperity.
“As members of the United Nations we have common purpose in preserving and strengthening the international system of cooperation that emerged from the turmoil of the first half of the twentieth century. As independent, proud countries, we cherish hard-won freedoms and those democratic traditions and values that are at the core of who we are today,” the British diplomat added.
Chief Minister Neiphu Rio remembered the brave soldiers who sacrificed their lives for their nations. “Seventy-five years hence, we need to reconcile with history and look forward to a future based on the firm foundations of peace and brotherhood,” Rio said.
The relationship between the UK and Japan over the last 75 years stands as a ‘model of the power of reconciliation,’ he said. “It is a fitting reflection of our shared interests, capabilities, and values.”
The chief minister also sought their support towards the ongoing political dialogue between the government of India and Naga representatives.
“Your war ended here in our land whilst ours began. After many years of hardship and suffering, we are now in the process of ceasefire and political dialogue. We hope you will support us as we move forward towards our endeavour of realising genuine peace for a shared and harmonious future where we spread the message of peace and universal brotherhood,” Rio appealed.
He also told them that Nagaland has witnessed more violence and bloodshed post World War II. “However, the past two decades have been peaceful and Nagaland is now moving forward on the path of development with its youthful population,” Rio shared. “We look to the future with hope from here.”
Chief Secretary Temjen Toy said that after 75 years, the Japanese, British, Indians and Nagas have once again congregated in Kohima, where they had fought a war. To the visitors, he welcomed them to the land in the spirit of peace and friendship.
“The concept of a global village is no longer just an ideal but a necessity as well when the planet itself is in great peril. Everybody needs everybody else,” Toy remarked.
“Our people too have aspirations and, living as we are in the middle of one of the most complex and difficult ethnic regions of Asia, our people are asking what is our God-given role today? It is such thinking that has led us to choose as the theme,” he explained.
‘Remembrance, Reconciliation and Rebirth’ was born out of the peoples’ aspirations, Toy said.
The Head Gaon Bura of Kohima Village Council, Medo Keretsü requested the Japanese and the British to apologise to one another. He appealed them to reach out to the Naga people, heal the old wounds and move forward with the message of peace and universal brotherhood. He also prayed for a brighter future and for peace to prevail.