Rajat Sharma

How India lost a great friend with the death of Shinzo Abe

rajat-sirIndia has lost a great friend with the passing away of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe was assassinated in the former Japanese capital city of Nara on Saturday while he was campaigning near a railway station. Normally political assassinations do not place in a country like Japan, and when news came of the attack, the entire world was stunned.

The assassin stood metres behind Abe, took aim with his hand-made gun, made of two pipes and a board, and two bullets hit the Japanese leader on his neck and chest. Abe passed away six hours after the attack due to huge blood loss. The assassin, a former serviceman of National Defense Force, was soon overpowered. He admitted that he had come to kill Abe. Police raided his home where they found an arsenal of hand-made pistols and explosives.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a day of national mourning in India on Saturday. Modi said, “In the passing away of Shinzo Abe, the world has lost a great visionary, and I have lost a dear friend.” He said, Abe was a great champion of India-Japan friendship.

In a blog titled ‘My Friend, Abe San’, Modi paid tributes to Abe, and wrote: “Among his greatest gifts to us and his most enduring legacy and one for which the world will always be indebted, is his foresight in recognising the changing tides and gathering storm of our times and his leadership in responding to it….”

“He was resolute in pursuing the civil nuclear agreement with India – a most difficult one for his country – and decisive in offering the most generous terms for the High Speed Rail in India. …”

“..The Quad, the Asean-led forums, the Indo-Pacific Ocean Initiative, the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor, and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure, all beneited from his contributions”, wrote Prime Minister Modi.

There is no doubt that Abe’s absence will affect political equations across the world, because it was he who tried hard to re-deine the power balance in the world. For India, Abe’s exit will surely be a setback. Abe had a strong personal bond with Narendra Modi, and the latter mentioned how they became friends over the years, even before Modi became prime minister.

“Every meeting with Abe San was intellectually stimulating”, wrote Modi in his blog. “He was always full of new ideas and invaluable insights on governance, economy, culture, foreign policy and various other objects…His counsel inspired me in my economic choices for Gujarat. And his support was instrumental in building Gujarat’s vibrant partnership with Japan.”

The last time, a Japanese Prime Minister was killed way back in 1932, and that too, in course of a coup attempt. In the last 90 years, there had been no political assassination in Japan on this scale.

Abe was instrumental in launching the Bullet Train project in India under a soft loan given by Japan. He visited India four times and addressed Indian Parliament twice. He laid the foundation of Indo-Pacific initiative, and was honoured with Padma Vibhushan in 2021.

There are striking similarities between Modi and Abe. Both the statesmen had immense pride in their respective culture, heritage and ancient traditions. When Modi visited Japan after becoming PM, the plan to develop Kashi on the lines of Kyoto was launched. Abe visited the ghats of Varanasi when he visited India in December, 2015. With Modi sitting by his side, Abe witnessed the famous Ganga Aarti at Dashshwamedh Ghat. The famous Rudraksha Convention Centre at Kashi Vishwanath has been made with Japanese assistance.

Abe laid the foundation of India-Japan strategic partnership during his India visit in 201. The next year, Modi concluded the civil nuclear deal during his Japan visit. Remember, it has been the tradition in Japan’s foreign policy to oppose nuclear weapons, because Japan is the only country in the world that has suffered from two atomic bombs. It was Abe, who putting aside old ideas, wanted a nuclear deal with India and recognized India as a responsible nuclear power.

The friendship between Abe and Modi was evident in 2017, when the Japanese PM along with Modi took part in a road show in Gujarat. This was the first time a foreign leader took part in a road show in India. Both the leaders visited the famous Sidi Sayyed mosque in Ahmedabad, and spent time at the Sabaramati river front.

Abe knew India was destined to become a world power in the coming years. In his 2007 speech to the Indian Parliament, Abe described India-Japan friendship as a “confluence of the two seas”. In December 2015, Modi and Abe agreed on the launch of a bullet train project in India, being built at a cost of Rs one lakh crore, with soft loan from Japan. The Bullet Train is expected to run in India in 2026.

It was Shinzo Abe, who, in order to counter growing Chinese influence, proposed the setting up of Quad – a four-nation initiative between the US, Australia, India and Japan. The previous UPA government of Dr Manmohan Singh had not shown much keenness on this initiative.

Chinese nationalists ‘celebrated’ Abe’s assassination on social media with one of the state media saying that there was much resentment among the Japanese people towards Abe’s policies. With China showing its clout in the Pacific region, Abe decided on setting up the Quad to counter Chinese influence. China had been claiming Senkoku islands which belong to Japan. It was Abe as prime minister, who despite the post-Second World War deal with the US not to arm its military, decided to provide ballistic missiles, jet fighters and naval ships to the Japanese Defense Force. Abe had realized the threats from China and was keeping his nation ready to counter all challenges.

With Abe’s passing away, India has lost one of its well-wishers, Modi has lost a friend and the world has lost a great statesman. Shinzo Abe came from a political family. His grandpa was the prime minister of Japan and his father was the finance minister. Shinzo was Japan’s youngest prime minister and he took over as PM four times. Shinzo Abe loved India and Indians, and he provided full support to Narendra Modi’s ideas for making a New India.

The bullet rain project, Delhi Metro, nearly 1,500 km long Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor project, Kashi Vishwanath project, North-east development projects, Smart Cities plan were being funded by Japan. This was due to the personal chemistry between Modi and Abe. Abe gave political stability to Japan and he was the longest serving PM of his country. He was the only Japanese PM to visit India four times during his official tenure spanning nine years. It was because of this deep personal bonding that Modi said, he has lost a true friend, India has lost a well-wisher and the world has lost a great statesman.

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