Abe, 67, died July 8 after being shot during an election campaign speech in Nara, Japan.
Abe convinced a reluctant, non-aligned India to join the Quad, a four-nation grouping, Masanori Kondo, a senior associate professor at Tokyo International Christian University and a regular follower of developments in India, told PTI here.
The Quad is a grouping of the United States, India, Japan and Australia. It was formed amid China’s growing influence and aggressive behavior in the strategic Indo-Pacific region.
“The Quad works well for all four countries and covers beyond ‘ocean protection’ to environmental and climate issues,” he said.
Kondo recalled Abe’s first visit to India in 2007 and his speech to the Indian Parliament “Confluence of the Two Seas”, a concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“Strengthening relations with India is very important to Japan’s national interest,” Abe wrote in “Towards a Beautiful Japan,” published in 2006 ahead of his first victory in the Liberal Democratic Party presidential election.
Abe was Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, having served in office from 2006 to 2007 and again from 2012 to 2020.
Abe’s foresight can be seen as it was long before China’s rise in the international community began in earnest, and he always gave India “top priority”, said Kondo, who has served as a member of Japanese government committees on India, including the Joint Japan-India Study Group as well as the India-Japan 21st Century Eminent Persons Group.
Abe’s contribution to strengthening Japan-India relations also included the civil nuclear power agreement between Japan and India, which made the bilateral relationship even more strategic.
“It would have been impossible for Japan to reach such an agreement with India without Abe’s strong leadership,” Kondo said of the Indo-Japan agreement for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, entered into force in 2017.
Abe responded to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s enthusiasm by accelerating the nuclear deal in 2014.
Abe has had an excellent working relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, since he was Chief Minister of Gujarat, and has sought international investment for the state, Kondo said.
Abe also cleared the hurdles for the India-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (IJCEPA), which was signed on February 16, 2011 and entered into force on August 1, 2011, he noted.
The IJCEPA is one of the most comprehensive agreements that India has entered into with other countries so far, according to Kondo.
Abe had pushed for large-scale ODA (official development assistance) projects such as the Delhi-Mumbai freight corridor and the construction of metros in major cities.
“Notably, the ongoing Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail project would never have been possible without the pressure from the leaders of the two countries,” he said.
The strengthening of Japanese-Indian relations will continue, but the loss caused by Abe’s sudden death is immeasurable, he added.
“The late Abe is very special to Indians, and it was only natural that he received Padma Vibhushan, following former Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori,” Kondo said.
Continued strong bilateral relations between Japan and India would secure more and more Indian projects under ODA, Kondo said.
“Nowadays, the Japanese are not only among the big investors in India and spearheading several infrastructure projects, they are also keeping a close eye on more business opportunities,” he added.