Shinzo Abe – an outstanding leader of Japan, a towering global statesman, and a great champion of India-Japan friendship – is not among us anymore. Japan and the world have lost a great visionary. And, I have lost a dear friend.
I first met him in 2007, during my visit to Japan as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Right from that first meeting, our friendship went beyond the trappings of office and the shackles of official protocol. Our visit to Toji temple in Kyoto, our train journey on the Shinkansen, our visit to the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, the Ganga Aarati in Kashi, and the elaborate tea ceremony in Tokyo, the list of our memorable interactions is indeed long. And, I will always cherish the singular honour of having been invited to his family home in Yamanashi prefecture, nestled among the foothills of Mt. Fuji.
His counsel inspired me in my economic choices for Gujarat. And, his support was instrumental in building Gujarat’s vibrant partnership with Japan.
Later on, it was my privilege to work with him to bring about an unprecedented transformation of the strategic partnership between India and Japan. 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. For him, this was one of the most consequential relationships between 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. As in most important milestones in independent India’s journey, he ensured that Japan is there side by side as New India accelerates its growth.
The Quad, the ASEAN-led forums, the Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative, the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure all benefited from his contributions. Quietly and without fanfare, and overcoming hesitation at home and scepticism abroad, he transformed Japan’s strategic engagement, including in defence, connectivity, infrastructure and sustainability, across the Indo-Pacific region. For that, the region is more optimistic about its destiny and the world more confident about its future.
During my Japan visit in May this year, I had the opportunity to meet Abe San, who had just taken over as the Chair of the Japan-India Association. He was his usual self – energetic, captivating, charismatic and very witty. He had innovative ideas on how to further strengthen the India-Japan friendship. When I said goodbye to him that day, little did I imagine that it would be our final meeting.
I will always be indebted for his warmth and wisdom, grace and generosity, friendship and guidance, and I will miss him dearly.
We in India mourn his passing as one of our own, just as he embraced us with an open heart. He died doing what he loved the most – inspiring his people. His life may have been cut short tragically, but his legacy will endure forever.
I extend heartfelt condolences on behalf of the people of India and on my own behalf to the people of Japan, especially to Mrs Akie Abe and his family. Om Shanti.
(This post was first published on www.narendramodi.in)