In the untimely death of Shinzo Abe, the longest serving Prime Minister of Japan, the world has lost a truly global statesman who passionately advocated closer India-Japan ties and sought to move beyond Tokyo’s post-war pacifist worldview. Having served two terms as Prime Minister from 2006 to 2007 and then from 2012 to 2020, Abe […]
In the untimely death of Shinzo Abe, the longest serving Prime Minister of Japan, the world has lost a truly global statesman who passionately advocated closer India-Japan ties and sought to move beyond Tokyo’s post-war pacifist worldview. Having served two terms as Prime Minister from 2006 to 2007 and then from 2012 to 2020, Abe was one of the most consequential leaders of Japan in its post-war history and was driven by a mission to help Japan find its true identity, and return it to its pre-World War II status, not in terms of militarism but in terms of restoring Japanese self esteem. He had a special bond with India and had recently agreed to serve as the chairman of the Indo-Japan Association. His contribution to the deepening of the bilateral relations was recognised by New Delhi by honouring him with Padma Vibhushan in 2021. His far-reaching policies — popularly known as Abenomics — reinvigorated the Japanese economy and re-ignited the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship of his people. India will miss him sorely because even out of power, he was a dependable friend and supporter of the country in Japan and across the region. He strongly advocated the coming together of India and Japan, two democratic nations, one in the Indian Ocean, the other in the Pacific, a “broader Asia” that would evolve into an immense network spanning the entirety of the Pacific Ocean, incorporating the US and Australia. Open and transparent, this network will allow people, goods, capital and knowledge to flow freely.
Abe visited India four times, the most by any Japanese PM. In 2015, Abe and Narendra Modi upgraded the relationship to a Special Strategic and Global Partnership. Under Abe, there was a concerted attempt by Japan to enhance economic engagement with India. India became the largest recipient of Japanese ODA (official development assistance), which rose to about $4 billion per annum. Abe sought more Japanese investment in India and asked Japanese companies to aggregate their plans despite Covid-19, for the next five years, and implement them assiduously. Among his most enduring legacy is his foresight in recognising the changing tides and gathering storms of our time and crafting appropriate responses to it. Long before others, in his seminal speech to Indian Parliament in 2007, he laid the ground for the emergence of the Indo-Pacific region as a contemporary political, strategic and economic reality — a region that will also shape the world in this century. And, he led from the front in building a framework and architecture for its stable and secure, peaceful and prosperous future, based on values that he deeply cherished — respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, adherence to international law and rules, peaceful conduct of international relations in a spirit of equality and shared prosperity through deeper economic engagement.