Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was shot dead on the morning of July 8 during a political event. He was addressing a gathering for the Upper House elections for his party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), when the incident happened. This is the first incident of its kind in Japan, when a prime minister has been shot dead. The occurrence of this incident in a country which is known for tolerance, is meant to take the world political arena by surprise. Shinzo Abe has proven to showcase his peace-loving leadership qualities not only with respect to India but world over. Not only has India lost a special friend in his death, but with his passing, India, Japan, Australia and the United States together were weaving the fabric in the Asia-Pacific region known as the Quad (QUAD) whose fate will need to be re-evaluated.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has viewed Shinzo Abe’s death as a personal loss. Indian Prime Minister Modi had a special relationship with Shinzo Abe. Soon after the incident, Prime Minister Modi, expressed his grief over the death of Shinzo Abe describing it as a big loss for India and paid tribute to the departed soul by declaring 9th July as a day of national mourning.
The diplomatic relations between the two countries started in 1952. From 1952 to 1998, the relations between the two countries were almost normal. Except the year 1998, when the then, Prime Minister of India Atal Vihari Bajpayee conducted a nuclear test in Pokhran. The reason for this cited by India was its internal security. Japan not only opposed this but also imposed economic and trade sanctions on India which were removed after 2002. However, relations between the two countries were once again normalizing after 2002. But the relations became intense and long-lasting when Shinzo Abe became Prime Minister of Japan for the first time in 2007. Shinzo Abe not only normalized bilateral relations with India but also gave a new direction and condition. Shinzo Abe’s association with India has been deep-rooted which becomes evident through his five times of visitation to India as Prime Minister of Japan and the signing of several agreements with India, the primary ones being ‘India-Japan Strategic Partnership’, ‘Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement’ and 2017’s ‘Civil Nuclear Agreement’.
Shinzo Abe was considered the father of QUAD. Shinzo Abe made QUAD practical in 2017 in collaboration with India, Australia and the United States. The basic objective of which is to prevent China’s growing economic and military influence, as well as to establish peace and rule-based order in the Asia-Pacific region.
Economic relations between India and Japan have improved a lot since 2007. Today there is a trade of about $18 billion between the two countries. Japan is the fourth largest investor in India. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will also be remembered for Abe-economics. Economists around the world still remember Abe-Economics and Modi-economics which played an important role in reviving the economy of both the countries and leading it to high growth. It is the close ties between Shinzo Abe and Modi which is credited with this.
India awarded the Padma Vibhushan to Shinzo Abe which is India’s second highest honor, in 2021, praising his contribution. In 2015, when Shinzo Abe was on a tour of India, Modi took Shinzo Abe to his parliamentary constituency Varanasi, where he also took part in the Ganga Aarti. Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone of the Mumbai-Ahmadabad bullet train project in Modi’s home town of Ahmadabad during his visit to India in 2017, which is a joint venture, considered as the dream project of Indian Prime Minister Modi. In 2014 Shinzo Abe was also the chief guest at the Republic Parade. All these incidents show that India’s relationship with Shinzo Abe hugely impacted India-Japan relations in a positive light. Losing a friend at a time when the world is witnessing a political upheaval due to difference of opinion with respect to the Ukranian crisis leading to a cold-war like situation, Shinzo Abe’s demise has created a vacuum that will not be easy to fill in.
[Photo by Prime Minister’s Office, Government of India]
Dr. Santosh Kumar is an Assistant professor at the Department of South and Central Asian Studies, Central University of Punjab, Bathinda.