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New Japan PM good news for India

delhi Updated: Dec 18, 2012 02:59 IST
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
Pramit Pal Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times
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Indian officials believe Shinzo Abe’s landslide election victory this weekend means the long-awaited bilateral nuclear agreement with Japan “will come through”. Earlier attempts by Tokyo have foundered due to India’s unwillingness to sign the test ban treaty.

Not only is Liberal Democratic Party’s Abe the most pro-Indian prime minister Japan has ever had, he campaigned on an openly pro-nuclear platform. His victory indirectly boosts India’s nuclear programme by laying to rest the ghost of Fukushima. Despite the accident, Japan’s Sankei newspaper says this election saw pro-nuclear legislators increase their number from 132 to 346.

Indian officials expect Abe to robustly push Japanese investment into the country.

Japanese firms already are big investors, but more would come if they get a “helping hand” from Tokyo.

Says Hemant Singh, former Indian ambassador to Japan: “Abe learnt about the importance of India to Japan on the knees of his grandfather, Nobosuke Kiishi.” Kiishi was the first post-War Japanese leader to visit India.

Abe spelled out his vision for India and Japan in a speech to the Indian Parliament in 2007.

His contributions to India’s place in the modern world are many. One, he replaced “Asia-Pacific” with the idea of an “Indo-Pacific” Asia.

“This was the first time an international leader used this in geopolitical discourse and argued the two oceans were seamlessly connected,” Singh says.

Two, Abe’s thesis that “a strong interest is in the best interest of Japan” and vice versa helped forge a bipartisan consensus in Tokyo regarding India’s importance. He and George W Bush were the first two world leaders to call India a “natural ally”.

Three, Abe argued that “when we build a community in Asia, maritime democracies should lead the pack”.

This strategic concept underpins the annual Malabar naval exercises that have included Japan, India, the US and occasionally Australia — and attracted Chinese protests.

Four, he called for a “Delhi consensus” – a model of fast growth with democracy as a counter to the dominant “Beijing consensus”. The term was picked up by The Economist and other Western media for a short while. Abe liked to say he wanted to be “the salesman” of such an Indian model.

The Japanese prime minister-to-be was not without a lighter side.

In a speech in Delhi in 2011, he invited the Indian navy to Japan’s base in Djibouti, in the horn of Africa, but added that the “gorgeous stars from Bollywood would be even more welcome”.