Former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe had a special connect with India

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, was shot dead today during an election campaign in western Japan. His attacker, a 41-year-old man, has been arrested by the police and the weapon has been seized.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met the Japanese leader several times – as a prime minister and also as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, and inked multiple pacts between the two countries, led the country and the world in mourning the leader.

Expressing his shock at the sudden assassination of a “towering global statesman” and “one of his dearest friends”, PM Modi wrote: “I am shocked and saddened beyond words at the tragic demise of one of my dearest friends, Shinzo Abe. He was a towering global statesman, an outstanding leader, and a remarkable administrator. He dedicated his life to make Japan and the world a better place.”

“My association with Mr. Abe goes back many years. I had got to know him during my tenure as Gujarat CM and our friendship continued after I became PM. His sharp insights on economy and global affairs always made a deep impression on me,” PM Modi tweeted.

“During my recent visit to Japan, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Abe again and discuss many issues. He was witty and insightful as always. Little did I know that this would be our last meeting. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the Japanese people,” the PM wrote in a series of tweets for his friend.

“Mr. Abe made an immense contribution to elevating India-Japan relations to the level of a Special Strategic and Global Partnership. Today, whole India mourns with Japan and we stand in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters in this difficult moment. As a mark of our deepest respect for former Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, a one day national mourning shall be observed on 9 July 2022.”

The Modi-Abe Relationship

Shinzo Abe, on his part, has been quite vocal about his special relationship with India and PM Modi. In fact, Abe was so “passionate about strengthening India-Japan ties, he had just taken over as the Chairman of the Japan-India Association”, PM Modi wrote, sharing a picture from his “most recent meeting with my dear friend, Shinzo Abe”.

“I will be a friend of India for the rest of my life,” Shinzo Abe had famously said, calling PM Modi his “most dependable friend”. And when his friend was on a visit to Japan after being elected as the Prime Minister of India in 2014, Abe broke protocol to receive him in Kyoto. Just four years later, during a two-day summit, Abe greeted PM Modi at his holiday home in Japan.

The two world leaders had great camaraderie and rapport; in 2015, PM Modi, Abe and his wife Akie Abe flew to Varanasi for the Ganga Aarti. Two years later, in 2017, Shinzo Abe and his wife accompanied PM Modi on a roadshow in an open jeep. A grand dinner at the iconic Agashiye terrace restaurant followed. It was during this visit that the foundation was laid for India’s first bullet train.

In 2020, PM Modi gave an emotional farewell to his “dear friend” when Shinzo Abe stepped down as prime minister citing ill health. A year later, Shinzo Abe was honoured with the Padma Vibhushan – India’s second-highest civilian award.

Shinzo Abe’s Connection With India

Shinzo Abe belonged to an influential political family. His grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, was the first Japanese PM to visit India. Reminiscing about the visit in a column he had written for an Indian newspaper, Abe said: “There was a time when Japan was not very prosperous. At such a time, PM Nehru presented PM Kishi as the Japanese Prime Minister in front of thousands of people and said how much he respected him.”

Abe’s first visit to India was in 2007, during his first term. His “Confluence of Two Seas” address in the parliament had a huge impact. He was also the first Japanese PM to attend the Republic Day parade as the chief guest.

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