Editorial: Bidding adieu to Abe, a friend in need

In Japan, Abe’s return to leadership in 2012 set into motion the era of Abenomics, which he referred to as an attempt to pull the nation out of the economic doldrums through structural reforms, monetary easing and fiscal stimulus.
People paying respects to Shinzo Abe
People paying respects to Shinzo AbeReuters

CHENNAI: In a development that stunned the world last Friday, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was gunned down in broad daylight by a 41-year-old man who found himself at odds with Abe for non-political reasons. The 67-year-old statesman who has been described as a divisive arch-conservative and one of the most powerful politicians in Japan went down in a hail of bullets, minutes into a speech being delivered at Nara, Japan. The fact that the assassination took place in a nation with the strictest gun control laws anywhere in the developed world has taken people by shock.

Abe, who was Japan’s longest serving PM, has served two terms — from 2006 to 2007 and from 2012-2020. Having shared a great rapport with India, PM Modi remembered Abe as a friend who contributed to elevating the relationship between India and Japan to a Special Strategic and Global Partnership. Abe’s efforts to transform the relationship between the two nations is well documented. The Japanese PM set a record of sorts with regard to the number of times he visited these shores, once during his first stint and thrice during his second.

His ‘Confluence of Two Seas’ speech which he delivered after he became a PM in 2007, and visited India for the very first time is regarded by many as the foundation stone for the creation of the Indo-Pacific Quad alliance, a critical component of India-Japan ties today. When Modi became PM in 2014, he returned the gesture by visiting Japan, as part of his first bilateral visit outside the Indian subcontinent. During this visit, the aforementioned partnership addressed concerns including maritime security, civilian nuclear energy, bullet train technology, the Indo-Pacific strategy and the Act East policy. The Indo-Japan nuclear deal which was hanging in limbo was given the green signal, thanks to Abe’s intervention. This cleared the decks for India’s agreements with American and French nuclear firms that had stakes in Japanese enterprises.

India and Japan’s defence ties were also bolstered as a result of Abe’s political leadership. The first meeting of the foreign and defence ministers of the two nations was held under Abe’s watch. An agreement for technology and defence equipment transfer was also signed in 2015 on the back of negotiations pertaining to the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement that had kicked off earlier. Subsequently, following India’s standoff with China which had begun exercising its might in the Pacific and Indian Oceans, Abe reignited the conversation to revive the Quad as officials from the US, Australia, Japan and India convened in Manila for the East Asia summit.

In Japan, Abe’s return to leadership in 2012 set into motion the era of Abenomics, which he referred to as an attempt to pull the nation out of the economic doldrums through structural reforms, monetary easing and fiscal stimulus. His efforts to beef up Japan’s security alliance with the US and improve the country’s defence portfolio was also recognised by world leaders.

Abe’s departure from leadership in 2020 left behind unresolved issues including a territorial disagreement with Russia as well as the revision of Japan’s war-renouncing Constitution, which had failed owing to poor public support. Needless to say, Abe’s shadow will loom large in the politics of Japan in the forthcoming years, with the current PM Fumio Kishida having a tall order on his hands, keeping China in check while maintaining Japan’s policy of humane diplomacy.

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