Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Friday that he was resigning as a chronic illness has resurfaced. His leadership transformed Japan’s relationship with India

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Friday that he would step down as a chronic illness has resurfaced. Abe, 65, was due to be in office till September 2021. He will stay on until his party chooses a successor, and will remain an MP.

Shinzo Abe’s Lineage

Abe comes from a political family. His grandfather Nobusuke Kishi was PM (1957-60), then his father Shintaro Abe was Foreign Minister (1982-86). On Monday, Abe became Japan’s longest-serving PM by consecutive days in office, overtaking the record of Eisaku Sato, his great-uncle, who served 2,798 days during 1964-72. Abe had first become the country’s PM in 2006, but resigned in 2007 due to illness. His current stint began in 2012.

Shinzo Abe In India

In his first stint in 2006-07, Abe visited India and addressed Parliament. During his second stint, he visited India thrice (January 2014, December 2015, September 2017) — the most visits by any Japanese PM.

He was the first Japanese PM to be Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade in 2014. This reflected his commitment towards an India relationship — he was being hosted by a government that would be facing elections in May 2014. As Japan’s leader, he was wooed both by the UPA under Dr Manmohan Singh and the NDA under Narendra Modi.

Transformation In India-Japan Ties

While the foundation for “Global Partnership between Japan and India” was laid in 2001, and annual bilateral summits were agreed in 2005, Abe accelerated the pace of ties since 2012.

In August 2007, when Abe visited India for the first time as PM, he delivered the now-famous “Confluence of the Two Seas” speech — laying the foundation for his concept of Indo-Pacific. This concept has now become mainstream and one of the main pillars of India-Japan ties.

During his second term, Abe helped build the relationship further.

Having visited Japan several times as Gujarat CM, Modi as PM chose Japan for his first bilateral visit outside the neighbourhood, in September 2014. Modi and Abe agreed to upgrade the bilateral relationship to “Special Strategic and Global Partnership”. The relationship grew and encompassed issues from civilian nuclear energy to maritime security, bullet trains to quality infrastructure, Act East policy to Indo-Pacific strategy.

On Friday, after Abe announced his decision to step down, Modi tweeted: “Pained to hear about your ill health, my dear friend @AbeShinzo. In recent years, with your wise leadership and personal commitment, the India-Japan partnership has become deeper and stronger than ever before. I wish and pray for your speedy recovery.”

When Modi went to Japan in 2014, the Indo-Japan nuclear deal was still uncertain, with Tokyo sensitive about a pact with a non-Nuclear-Proliferation-Treaty member country. Abe’s government convinced the anti-nuclear hawks in Japan to sign the agreement in 2016. The pact was key to India’s deals with US and French nuclear firms, which were either owned by or had stakes in Japanese firms.