Highlights

  • First Japanese PM to be Chief Guest at India's R-Day parade
  • Nurtured the idea of an arc of democracy encompassing US, Japan, Australia, & India, to counter China
  • Received one of India's highest civilian awards-Padma Vibhushan

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How Shinzo Abe transformed Indo-Japan ties

Shinzo Abe’s term as Prime Minister of Japan not only deepened Tokyo’s ties with India amid a common Chinese ‘threat’ but also helped New Delhi enter the club of major democratic powers in the Indo-Pacific region. 

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe died after being shot in the chest during an election campaign in the city of Nara in Japan on Friday leaving him seriously injured.

The 67-year-old was rushed to the hospital and was reportedly “showing no vital signs”.

As the news broke, wishes poured in from leaders from across the world. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress’ Rahul Gandhi, and Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, among other leaders expressed their grief while stressing on the important role Abe played in strengthening India-Japan ties.

Abe as Japan's PM not only redefined Tokyo’s ties with New Delhi amid a common Chinese ‘threat’ but also helped New Delhi enter the club of major democratic powers in the Indo-Pacific region. He is often credited as the 'architect' of modern Indo-Japan ties.

Many firsts

In his first stint in 2006-07, then 52-year-old Abe visited India and addressed the Parliament. During his second stint, he visited India thrice—in 2014, 2015, and 2017— the most visits by any Japanese PM.

He was also the first Japanese PM to be Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade in 2014. The visit was credited to have helped the Indo-Japan ties reach the “pinnacle”. He was invited by the Congress-led UPA-II government that was ousted that year by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA government.

Deepening Indo-Japan, Indo-Pacific ties

Although a “global partnership” and annual bilateral summits between the two countries were agreed upon in 2001 and 2005, respectively, Abe accelerated the process of deepening the ties.

During his first visit to India as PM in August 2007, Abe delivered the famous “Confluence of the Two Seas” speech—this idea about an arc of democracy stretching from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean now defines India-Japan ties.

During his second term, Abe helped build the relationship further.

Narendra Modi as PM chose Japan for his first bilateral visit in September 2014. The two leaders then agreed to upgrade the bilateral ties to “Special Strategic and Global Partnership” covering issues ranging from civilian nuclear energy to maritime security, bullet trains to quality infrastructure, Act East policy to Indo-Pacific strategy.

In 2017, the India-Japan Agreement for Cooperation in the Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy was signed. Abe’s government played a key role in materialising the pact which faced resistance from anti-nuclear groups within Tokyo given India’s exclusion from the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The agreement helped India strike deals with US and French nuclear firms owned by or having stakes in Japanese firms.

Defence and infrastructure build up amid China 'threat'

Under Abe the two sides decided to have Foreign and Defence Ministers’ Meeting (2+2), a pact for transfer of defence equipment and technology was also signed in 2015.

In October 2017, as ‘Chinese aggression’ grew in the Pacific, Indian Ocean, and India’s borders in Doklam, Abe Japan pushed the idea of reviving the Quad--a Japan, US, India, and Australia grouping.
During India-China border stand-offs over the years, including the one in Doklam in 2017, Abe’s Japan firmly stood with India while asking China to change status quo.

Under Abe, India and Japan formed the Act East Forum that promotes projects in the Northeast and planned joint projects in Maldives and Sri Lanka in a bid to counter China's growing influence.

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