New Delhi: India is “deeply saddened” by the demise of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as the government conveyed its condolences to his family, friends and the people of Japan.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said in a statement: “Abe was a visionary leader and statesman, who worked tirelessly for the betterment of humanity. He left an indelible impression on the hearts and minds of people across the world.”

Earlier Friday, Abe, 67, was assassinated during a campaign speech in the western Japanese city of Nara ahead of Sunday’s elections for Japan’s upper house of Parliament.

Bagchi recalled Abe’s speech during his visit to India in 2007 where the then-Japanese Prime Minister said in a statement that the India-Japan relationship is blessed with the largest potential for the development of bilateral relationships anywhere in the world. His efforts have been instrumental in bringing our nations together to realise a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific.

“Abe’s immense contributions elevated the India-Japan relationship to the level of a Special Strategic and Global Partnership. A large number of milestone projects between India and Japan were initiated during his tenure as the Prime Minister of Japan. The awarding of India’s second-highest civilian award, Padma Vibhushan, to Abe is a testament to the respect and warmth that he enjoyed in India,” the statement reads.

Shinzo Abe assumed the leadership of both the Japan-India Parliamentary League (JIPFL) and Japan India Association (JIA) in 2022 which was a reflection of his deep commitment to bolstering the partnership between the two countries.

Bagchi said that the loss of a “great friend of India” has been felt across the country. “Today, the whole of India mourns with Japan and we stand in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters in this difficult moment,” he added.

As a mark of respect for the former Japanese Prime Minister, a one-day national mourning will be observed on July 9.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed his shock over the tragic demise of Abe and in a tweet said: “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 making Japan and the world a better place.”

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh too expressed grief over Abe’s death. “Deeply saddened by the demise of former PM of Japan, Shinzo Abe. His role in strengthening the strategic relationship between India & Japan was commendable. He leaves behind a lasting legacy in the Indo-Pacific. My condolences to his family & to the people of Japan,” he wrote in a tweet.

Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, stepped down in 2020 citing health reasons. He was Prime Minister of Japan twice, from 2006-07 and again from 2012-20. He was succeeded by Yoshihide Suga and later by Fumio Kishida.

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida earlier in his live address to the country said “this is not a forgivable act,” and that authorities would “take appropriate measures to handle the situation.”

Kishida further said that the motive behind Abe’s shooting is not known. The media outlet citing government sources also reported that Abe’s shooting suspect is an ex-member of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.

The Japanese Premier also urged everyone to not speculate about any political ramifications at the time.

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