PM Modi in Japan for Shinzo Abe's state funeral: A look back at their bromance
Shinzo Abe, the former prime minister of Japan, shared a close bond with Narendra Modi and their friendship helped elevate bilateral ties to a new high
On 8 July, the world gasped in shock when former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated while he was on an election campaign in the city of Nara.
Today, Japan will hold a state funeral for the country’s longest-serving leader, which will also see the presence of 20 heads of states and representatives from over 100 countries.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also in Japan to attend the funeral of his “dear friend and a great champion of India-Japan friendship”. The prime minister left for Tokyo on Monday and had said on Twitter that he “would be conveying heartfelt condolences to Prime Minister Kishida and Mrs Abe on behalf of all Indians”.
India had also announced a one-day national mourning on 9 July as a mark of respect for Abe.
Serving as Japan’s longest prime minister, Shinzo Abe enjoyed a close relationship with India and his ‘bromance’ with Narendra Modi was a huge talking point. In fact, Abe can been credited with nurturing ties with India and gave the bilateral ties a new momentum by becoming the first Japanese prime minister to visit India four times.
He was also awarded India’s Padma Vibhushan — the nation’s second-highest civilian honour — in 2021 for his “exceptional and distinguished service” in the field of public affairs, making him only the second Japanese laureate, after former Defence Minister Hosei Norota in 2001.
Shinzo Abe’s first stint and India
Shinzo Abe always shared a close bond with India. It dated back to his grandfather Nobusuke Kishi, who was the first Japanese prime minister to visit India in 1957.
In 2006, a 52-year-old Shinzo Abe became the youngest prime minister in Japan. In the following year, he visited India in August and delivered a historic address to the Indian Parliament. Quoting Mughal scholar-prince Dara Shikoh, Abe spoke of the “confluence of the two seas” — the Indian and Pacific Oceans — that were undergoing a “dynamic coupling as seas of freedom and of prosperity.”
He then said: “This is the message I wish to deliver directly today to the one billion people of India. That is why I stand before you now in the Central Hall of the highest chamber, to speak with you, the people’s representatives of India.”
His historic speech became the benchmark and foundation for Indo-Pacific ties.
Abe’s return to power and growing ties
In 2012, Shinzo Abe returned to the top position in Japanese politics and he renewed his love and relations with India.
In January 2014, he earned the honour of being the first Japanese prime minister to be invited as the chief guest for the Republic Day parade by the Manmohan Singh government.
When Narendra Modi came to power as prime minister in May 2014, NaMo, already a fan of Japan and ‘Abenomics’, chose the country to be his first bilateral visit outside the neighbourhood, in September 2014 and from then on, the bromance blossomed.
The five-day visit in September 2014 was just the first chapter of the Modi-Abe friendship and set the foundation for India-Japan deepened ties.
It was during this visit that Japan promised to give $35 billion to India through public and private funding over the next five years for developmental projects, including building of smart cities and clean-up of the Ganga river. Abe also lifted the ban on six Indian entities, including Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), which was imposed in the aftermath of 1998 nuclear tests.
The friendship grew over the years and in 2015 it acquired centre stage when Modi and Abe flew together to Varanasi to witness the magnificent Ganga Aarti during the latter’s three-day visit.
Their friendship laid the tracks for the Rs 1 lakh crore Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train project, involving the construction of a 505 km bullet train using Japan’s Shinkansen technology.
In 2017, Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akei Abe, returned to India in September and was given a grand welcome in Ahmedabad during which the foundation stone for India’s first bullet train was laid.
Modi welcomed Abe through a tweet while sharing pictures of an illuminated Sabarmati riverfront. Modi also personally greeted Abe with a trademark hug at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport.
In 2018, PM Modi went to Japan to attend the 13th India-Japan annual summit and was hosted by Abe, in a rare gesture, at his private holiday home in the picturesque Yamanashi prefecture.
When Abe announced his decision to step down in 2020, Modi had tweeted: “Pained to hear about your ill health, my dear friend @AbeShinzo. In recent years, with your wise leadership and personal commitment, the India-Japan partnership has become deeper and stronger than ever before. I wish and pray for your speedy recovery.”
Pained to hear about your ill health, my dear friend @AbeShinzo. In recent years, with your wise leadership and personal commitment, the India-Japan partnership has become deeper and stronger than ever before. I wish and pray for your speedy recovery. pic.twitter.com/JjziLay2gD
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 28, 2020
Beyond the visuals
The Modi-Abe friendship greatly benefited India and it went beyond just mere optics. When Modi went to Japan in 2014, the Indo-Japan nuclear deal was still uncertain, with Tokyo sensitive about a pact with a non-Nuclear-Proliferation-Treaty member country. Abe’s government convinced the anti-nuclear hawks in Japan to sign the agreement in 2016.
Additionally, Abe initiated the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, in 2007 with the support of US vice president Dick Cheney, Australian prime minister John Howard and then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Abe has been credited with deepening India-Japan ties to new highs and when he stepped down, officials in New Delhi were the first to say, “Whoever comes next will have big shoes to fill.”
With inputs from agencies
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