PM Modi, Manmohan Singh, leaders across the spectrum condole Abe’s death

PM Modi, Manmohan Singh, leaders across the spectrum condole Abe’s death

Leaders across the spectrum condoled the loss of a leader, who gave India-Japan ties a new energy during his tenure

India will observe a day of mourning for former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on July 9 even as PM Modi, former PM Manmohan Singh and leaders across the political spectrum condoled the loss of a leader, who gave India-Japan ties a new energy during his tenure. As news of Mr. Abe being shot came in, PM Modi and the former Prime Minister and senior Congress leader issued statements praying for his health, and as his death was confirmed a few hours later at the Medical University Hospital in Nara, many joined in to condole his death.

In 2021, the government awarded Mr. Abe the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honour.

“Mr. Abe made an immense contribution to elevating India-Japan relations to the level of a Special Strategic and Global Partnership. Today, whole India mourns with Japan and we stand in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters in this difficult moment,” Mr. Modi said in a tweet.

Mr. Modi said he had lost a “dear friend” whom he had first come to know during the time he was Chief Minister of Gujarat, and Mr. Abe was Prime Minister in his first tenure 2006-2007.

During that short period, Mr. Abe had visited India at the invitation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, addressed the Parliament and set up several mechanisms for intensifying relations, including proposing the “Quadrilateral Strategic Dialogue” (QSD). Mr. Modi had visited Japan as Chief Minister in 2007 and discussed investment projects with PM Abe, and continued the close relationship when both were leaders of their countries from 2014-2020.

In his first tenure, PM Modi made Japan his first bilateral destination outside the neighbourhood (after Bhutan and Nepal). Since then, the two PMs had been seen at alternating annual summits in Japan and India, sharing a considerable amount of personal time together. India and Japan were able to conclude the Civil Nuclear deal, considered impossible given Japan’s nuclear sensitivities and India’s refusal to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, only due to Mr. Abe’s persistence with his Parliament. 

On Friday, former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh said that he was “deeply shocked by the tragic attack” on his friend. While Mr. Singh was more than 20 years older than PM Abe, the two leaders struck up an easy relationship during Mr. Abe’s first visit to India in 2006, where they discussed economic issues, particularly the global crisis that followed.

“During my tenure as Prime Minister, we worked to raise both our countries’ ties to the level of a global and strategic partnership,” said Mr. Singh, adding that relations had been taken to “a qualitatively new level.”

During Mr. Abe’s visit to Delhi in 2014, when he was Japan’s first Prime Minister to be invited as chief guest to the Republic Day parade, his aide Tomohiko Taniguchi told reporters that Mr. Abe considered Mr. Singh his “mentor or guru”.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who had known Mr. Abe since his years as Indian Deputy Chief of Mission in the Indian Embassy in Tokyo (1996-2000), said it was a “sad day for the world, and him personally. “A quarter century of memories of Shinzo Abe. No words to express them,” Mr. Jaishankar added.

In a condolence message, Congress President Sonia Gandhi called Mr. Abe’s death a “huge misfortune” for Japan and the entire international community. Congress MP Rahul Gandhi said Mr. Abe’s role in strengthening the India Japan relationship was “commendable” and said Mr. Abe left a “lasting legacy” in the Indo-Pacific, referring to his work in steering the Quad engagement when it was revived in 2017. 

In December 2019, Mr. Abe had to cancel his visit to India where he was set to hold the annual summit with Mr. Modi, as violent protests broke out over the Citizenship Amendment Act, which had just been passed in Parliament. Attempts to reschedule the visit failed after the outbreak of Covid in 2020, and PM Abe stepped down that year due to his own health condition.

His desire to go to India’s North East, where Japan has made a significant commitment to development, was never fulfilled. Nor was the dream of the Japanese bullet train from Ahmedabad to Mumbai, which he and PM Modi signed together, but has been subsequently delayed due to land acquisition and other issues.

PM Modi last met him in May this year, when he travelled to Tokyo for the Quad Summit. Mr. Abe had also just taken over as the Chairperson of the Japan-India association.

The Home Ministry announced one day’s State Mourning throughout the country on Saturday as “a mark of respect to the departed dignitary.”

“The National Flag will be flown at half-mast on the day of mourning throughout India on all buildings where the National Flag is flown regularly and there will be no official entertainment on the day,” the statement said.

“Mr. Abe was a visionary leader and statesman, who worked tirelessly for the betterment of humanity. He left an indelible impression on the hearts and minds of people across the world”, the MEA said in a separate statement.

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