Friday, July 8, 2022. The day was not conducive to Indo-Japanese relations. Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, credited with strengthening ties between the two nations, has been confirmed dead after being shot dead during a campaign event in the city of Nara. According to hospital authorities, he was treated for more than 4.5 hours, but doctors were unable to save his life due to heavy bleeding.

Relations between India and Japan are spellbinding. Despite being democracies and having a common adversary, the two have very different policies and approaches to policy-making. “Neither India nor Japan had historically focused on each other when it came to resolving their respective security challenges,” Foreign Minister S Jaishankar writes in his book The India Way. . “Yet they both think the same way about the big issues of the day, especially in recent years.”

He adds that “the realization in two nations that they have no choice but to help shape their continent is now a driving force for a new relationship.”

In this achievement, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Shinzo Abe, who has the honor of being Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister, played a vital role. After being first elected in 2006, India was one of his top priorities.

When invited in 2007 to address the Indian Parliament, he spoke of “the confluence of two seas”, referring to the Indian and Pacific oceans, which, in his own words, “resulted in a dynamic coupling as than seas of freedom and prosperity”. This coupling of the seas has been further deepened thanks to his efforts and his vision of a “Broader Asia”.

Whether it is strategic interests or cultural and technological exchanges, Shinzo Abe has remained committed to the common cause of the two countries. His important and foremost contribution will always remain the conception of the idea of ​​the QUAD, a group of four nations – Australia, India, Japan and the United States – for the strategic dialogue on security in the Indo region. -Pacific in 2007. This cooperation placed China in check, and therefore irritated it several times. Dialogue and parallel military exercises have opened doors for India to explore the Indo-Pacific region, and, not to mention the international resonance of concerns over the Belt and Road Initiative, the ambitious Chinese.

To further counter Chinese influence, under Abe’s leadership, India and Japan formed the Act East Forum and began building infrastructure projects in northeast India. The forum’s work has also extended to Sri Lanka and the Maldives, where India and Japan have built projects to counter Beijing’s political influence.

Abe also played a pivotal role in signing the Indo-Japan civilian nuclear deal, which made possible nuclear cooperation between the two eastern democracies. In December 2015, the MoU was signed for the first time. Two years later, the deal became a reality, allowing India to buy nuclear reactors with a capacity of more than 1,000 MW from Japan, to obtain advanced nuclear manufacturing and breeder technology. Japan was initially adamant about pushing India for more nuclear non-proliferation, but dropped those demands over time.

Another key thing that Abe did was to sign an agreement to exchange technology on high-speed rail during his visit to India in December 2015, in addition to launching various landmark infrastructure projects like the Corridor of dedicated freight in India. Apart from Abe, no other Japanese prime minister has made four visits to India.

Although Abe cooperated with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, he shared a special bonhomie with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When the latter was still Chief Minister of Gujarat, Abe used to follow only one foreigner on Twitter, and of course, that foreigner was Modi. They had known each other for seven years before 2014. When Modi was elected Prime Minister of India, his first major overseas tour was to Japan. After 2014, India and Japan saw the result of this bonhomie in various agreements related to technology and infrastructure.

In January 2021, Abe was rightfully awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian honor in India, for his contributions. He was indeed a pragmatic and proactive leader of Japan. Its loss is not only that of Japan, but also that of India.

Harshil Mehta is an analyst who writes on international relations, diplomacy and national issues. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the position of this publication.

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