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HindustanTimes Wed,01 Oct 2014

Tokyo calling: What PM Modi, Shinzo Abe have in common

Sitaraman Shankar, Hindustan Times  Tokyo, August 29, 2014
First Published: 23:58 IST(29/8/2014) | Last Updated: 09:00 IST(30/8/2014)

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in Kyoto on Saturday, expect the chemistry to crackle and fizz.

Put that down to the kindred souls of Asian politics being united by their staunch nationalism and right-wing views.

"The nations are very different: Japan is a mature economy, with an ageing population and low growth, while India is developing, young and growing. But the leaders are similar, and what unites them is their guts, their will to get things done, whether you agree with them or not," says Takashi Shimada, president of consulting firm Indo Business Centre.

But their handshake will be underpinned by other interesting symmetries.

Read: Quiet Kyoto meet for Japan's Abe and PM Modi?

Both men celebrate birthdays later in September. Modi will turn 64 on the 17th; Abe will be 60 four days later.

Abe became PM on December 26, 2012; Modi won his third term as Gujarat CM that month, the win that put him on the path to Delhi. Modi, too, became PM on a 26th - May this year.

Japan's Nikkei share index has vaulted 50% in the 20 months since Abe became PM. And that's the gain that Indian stocks would have recorded when Modi gets to 20 months, if their performance in the first three months of his rule are any indication.

Modi arrives in Japan on Saturday on a five-day visit that could see deals in nuclear, infrastructure and defence sectors.

Read: Modi leaves for Japan, says 'grateful' for its contribution to India's development

The path to some of the more difficult agreements could well be lubricated by the interpersonal equation between the two men.

Numerical oddities aside, there are striking similarities in the way they do their politics.

Modi is unapologetic in his jettisoning of what he regards as token secularism; Abe has ignored critics of Japan's past by visiting the Yasukuni shrine to pay respect to the war dead.

Both Abe and Modi came to power booting out left-of-centre formations short on charisma, an attribute the two men have in spades. Both brought stable governments after years of policy uncertainty.

A delicious irony is that this grand embrace was set in motion by the ousted UPA government, which invited Abe to be the chief guest at Republic Day this year, and before him, hosted Emperor Akihito and his wife.

In the past, history sometimes kept India and Japan apart. Now expect chemistry to bridge that gap.

Read: Shinzo Abe, Modi exchange tweets, to hold ‘chai pe charcha’ in Japan


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