‘Shinzo Abe played key role in strengthening India-Japan relations’

Updated on Jul 09, 2022 04:26 AM IST

In a statement condoling Abe’s death, India’s external affairs ministry said the 67-year-old leader’s efforts were instrumental in ‘bringing our nations together to realise a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific’

In this August 31, 2014 photo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) with then Japan PM Shinzo Abe during their visit to Toji Temple in Kyoto. (PTI)
In this August 31, 2014 photo, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (left) with then Japan PM Shinzo Abe during their visit to Toji Temple in Kyoto. (PTI)
By, New Delhi

Years before the term Indo-Pacific formally entered the diplomatic lexicon, former Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe had spoken of the responsibility of India and Japan to nurture the coupling of the Indian and Pacific Oceans to ensure regional freedom and prosperity.

Abe, Japan’s longest serving premier, made those prescient remarks while addressing a joint sitting of the Indian Parliament in August 2007, during his first term in office. The speech featured many ideas and concepts that he elaborated upon to broaden ties with India in his second and longer stint as prime minister.

“The Pacific and the Indian Oceans are now bringing about a dynamic coupling as seas of freedom and of prosperity. A ‘broader Asia’ that broke away geographical boundaries is now beginning to take on a distinct form. Our two countries have the ability - and the responsibility - to ensure that it broadens yet further and to nurture and enrich these seas to become seas of clearest transparence,” he said.

“This is the message I wish to deliver directly today to the one billion people of India,” he added, in a speech that quoted the thoughts of both spiritual leader Swami Vivekananda and Mughal prince Dara Shikoh.

Abe, who was gunned down by a former naval personnel while making an election campaign speech on Friday, is widely seen as the main architect of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad, which brings together Australia, India, Japan and the US and is now perceived as the pre-eminent bloc in the Indo-Pacific.

“Japanese diplomacy is now promoting various concepts in a host of different areas so that a region called ‘the Arc of Freedom and Prosperity’ will be formed along the outer rim of the Eurasian continent...By Japan and India coming together in this way, this ‘broader Asia’ will evolve into an immense network spanning the entirety of the Pacific Ocean, incorporating the USA and Australia,” he said in the same speech.

“Open and transparent, this network will allow people, goods, capital, and knowledge to flow freely,” he added.

Though the Quad faltered after Australia walked away from the grouping, it was subsequently revived in November 2017 and then swiftly upgraded to the summit level in less than four years.

In a statement condoling Abe’s death, the external affairs ministry said the 67-year-old leader’s efforts were instrumental in “bringing our nations together to realise a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific”.

Abe worked with former prime minister Manmohan Singh to elevate India-Japan relations to a “special strategic and global partnership” in December 2006 in order to boost all-round cooperation and contribute to greater regional peace and stability.

His groundbreaking security reforms during his second stint, including legislation to expand the role of Japan’s Self-Defense Force, ultimately paved the way for the signing of the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) with India in September 2020, whereby the defence forces of the two sides can reciprocally access logistics facilities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who first got to know Abe during a visit to Japan in 2007 as the chief minister of Gujarat, wrote in a blog on Friday that the two leaders worked together for “an unprecedented transformation of the strategic partnership”.

“From a largely narrow, bilateral economic relationship, Abe San helped turn it into a broad, comprehensive one, which not only covered every field of national endeavour, but became pivotal for our two countries’ and the region’s security,” Modi wrote in the blog titled “My Friend, Abe San”.

“For him, this was one of the most consequential relationships for the people of our two countries and the world. He was resolute in pursuing the civil nuclear agreement with India - a most difficult one for his country - and decisive in offering the most generous terms for the High Speed Rail in India,” Modi added.

Abe’s contributions to strengthening bilateral ties was recognised with the award of the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian award, to him last year.

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