How Shinzo Abe strengthened India-Japan relationship

Edited By: Palki Sharma WION
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Aug 28, 2020, 08.29 PM(IST)

Shinzo Abe in India Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

When Shinzo Abe resigns from office over health issues, he has cemented his place in history books. And he eaves behind a rich legacy, especially when it comes to Japan's relationship with India.

Shinzo Abe returned as Japan prime minister for a rare second term in December 2012, pledging to revive growth with his "Abenomics" mix of hyper-easy monetary policy, government spending and reforms. He also pledged to beef up Japan's defence and revise the constitution. He was then called the "comeback kid".

Eight years later, when he resigns from office over health issues, he has cemented his place in history books. And he leaves behind a rich legacy, especially when it comes to Japan's relationship with India.

In 1957, the then prime minister of Japan, Nobusuke Kishi was accorded a warm welcome by India and the then Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru who had thrown him a grand reception.

Nobusuke Kishi was then the leader of a nation defeated in World War II, and was touched.

Upon returning to Japan, he narrated his experiences to his young grandson -- Shinzo Abe. He many years later recalled the episode before Indian parliamentarians in New Delhi.

"Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru brought my grandfather to an outdoor 'civic reception' at which tens of thousands of people had gathered. He introduced him to a crowd energetically saying, 'This is the prime minister of Japan, a country I hold in the greatest esteem.'

"This is a story I heard as a little boy from my grandfather. As the leader of a defeated nation in a war, he must have been very much delighted," Abe said.

That story drew loud cheers from the audience, and Abe established an instant connect with India.

Abe's first term as prime minister ended rather abruptly. He resigned within a year due to health reasons.

He returned in 2012, and encouraged deeper ties with India. He found an ally in Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In 2014, he began focussing on building a strong relationship with India, Australia and ASEAN nations.

In 2014, Abe was the first Japanese prime minister to attend India's Republic Day parade as the chief guest. 

As the prime minister, Abe has visited India four times, but, perhaps, the most memorable one was in 2015.

In 2015, Abe visited PM Modi's constitutency Varanasi to witness the Ganga Aarti.

India also signed an agreement with Japan to built its first bullet train -- a project that will connect Mumbai and Ahmedabad with a high speed rail line.

Both sides finalised more bilateral agrements in the following years.

During Modi's visit to Japan in 2016, ten more agreements and MoUs were signed. And in 2018, 32 agreements were signed during the Japan-India annual summit.

As a result, direct investment from Japan to India has gone up -- from a little more than 2 billion dollars in 2014 to well over 3.5 billion dollars in 2018.

The two countries are also expanding military cooperation.

India and Japan are supposed to hold a virtual summit next month, where both leaders were supposed to sign a key military logistics pact -- a pact to strengthen the quad alliance between the United States, Australia, Japan and India.

For as long as Abe was in office, he advocated for the quad, pitching it as an effective counter to chinese aggression.

India can now only hope that his successor is as committed to the relationship as Abe was.

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