My Friend, Abe San

Published By : Admin | July 8, 2022 | 19:27 IST
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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, 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.

Even when he was not the Prime Minister of Japan between 2007 and 2012, and more recently after 2020, our personal bond remained as strong as ever.

Every meeting with Abe San was intellectually stimulating. He was always full of new ideas and invaluable insights on governance, economy, culture, foreign policy, and various other subjects.

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 for 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.

His contribution to India-Japan relations was richly recognised by the conferment upon him of the prestigious Padma Vibhushan in 2021.

Abe San had a deep insight into the complex and multiple transitions taking place in the world, the vision to be ahead of his time to see its impact on politics, society, economy and international relations, the wisdom to know the choices that were to be made, the capacity to make clear and bold decisions even in the face of conventions and the rare ability to carry his people and the world with him. His far-reaching policies - Abenomics - reinvigorated the Japanese economy and re-ignited the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship of his people.

Among his greatest gifts to us and his most enduring legacy, and one for which the world will always be indebted, is his foresight in recognising the changing tides and gathering storm of our time and his leadership in responding to it. Long before others, he, in his seminal speech to the Indian Parliament in 2007, laid the ground for the emergence of the Indo Pacific region as a contemporary political, strategic and economic reality - a region that will also shape the world in this century.

And, he led from the front in building a framework and architecture for its stable and secure, peaceful and prosperous future, based on values that he deeply cherished – respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, adherence to international law and rules, peaceful conduct of international relations in a spirit of equality and shared prosperity through deeper economic engagement.

The Quad, the ASEAN-led forums, the Indo Pacific Oceans Initiative, the India-Japan Development Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, including Africa 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 heart-felt 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.

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India’s G-20 Presidency
December 01, 2022
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Today, India commences its G20 Presidency.

The previous 17 Presidencies of the G20 delivered significant results - for ensuring macro-economic stability, rationalising international taxation, relieving debt-burden on countries, among many other outcomes. We will benefit from these achievements, and build further upon them.


However, as India assumes this important mantle, I ask myself - can the G20 go further still? Can we catalyse a fundamental mindset shift, to benefit humanity as a whole?

I believe we can.

Our mindsets are shaped by our circumstances. Through all of history, humanity lived in scarcity. We fought for limited resources, because our survival depended on denying them to others. Confrontation and competition - between ideas, ideologies and identities - became the norm.

Unfortunately, we remain trapped in the same zero-sum mindset even today. We see it when countries fight over territory or resources. We see it when supplies of essential goods are weaponised. We see it when vaccines are hoarded by a few, even as billions remain vulnerable.

Some may argue that confrontation and greed are just human nature. I disagree. If humans were inherently selfish, what would explain the lasting appeal of so many spiritual traditions that advocate the fundamental one-ness of us all?

One such tradition, popular in India, sees all living beings, and even inanimate things, as composed of the same five basic elements – the panch tatva of earth, water, fire, air and space. Harmony among these elements - within us and between us - is essential for our physical, social and environmental well-being.


India's G20 Presidency will work to promote this universal sense of one-ness. Hence our theme - 'One Earth, One Family, One Future'.


This is not just a slogan. It takes into account recent changes in human circumstances, which we have collectively failed to appreciate.


Today, we have the means to produce enough to meet the basic needs of all people in the world.


Today, we do not need to fight for our survival - our era need not be one of war. Indeed, it must not be one!

 


Today, the greatest challenges we face - climate change, terrorism, and pandemics - can be solved not by fighting each other, but only by acting together.

Fortunately, today's technology also gives us the means to address problems on a humanity-wide scale. The massive virtual worlds that we inhabit today demonstrate the scalability of digital technologies.


Housing one-sixth of humanity, and with its immense diversity of languages, religions, customs and beliefs, India is a microcosm of the world.


With the oldest-known traditions of collective decision-making, India contributes to the foundational DNA of democracy. As the mother of democracy, India's national consensus is forged not by diktat, but by blending millions of free voices into one harmonious melody.

Today, India is the fastest growing large economy. Our citizen-centric governance model takes care of even our most marginalised citizens, while nurturing the creative genius of our talented youth.


We have tried to make national development not an exercise in top-down governance, but rather a citizen-led 'people's movement'.


We have leveraged technology to create digital public goods that are open, inclusive and inter-operable. These have delivered revolutionary progress in fields as varied as social protection, financial inclusion, and electronic payments.

For all these reasons, India's experiences can provide insights for possible global solutions.

During our G20 Presidency, we shall present India's experiences, learnings and models as possible templates for others, particularly the developing world.

Our G20 priorities will be shaped in consultation with not just our G20 partners, but also our fellow-travellers in the global South, whose voice often goes unheard.


Our priorities will focus on healing our 'One Earth', creating harmony within our 'One Family' and giving hope for our 'One Future'.

For healing our planet, we will encourage sustainable and environment-friendly lifestyles, based on India's tradition of trusteeship towards nature.

For promoting harmony within the human family, we will seek to depoliticise the global supply of food, fertilizers and medical products, so that geo-political tensions do not lead to humanitarian crises. As in our own families, those whose needs are the greatest must always be our first concern.

For imbuing hope in our future generations, we will encourage an honest conversation among the most powerful countries - on mitigating risks posed by weapons of mass destruction and enhancing global security.

 


India’s G20 agenda will be inclusive, ambitious, action-oriented, and decisive.

 


Let us join together to make India's G20 Presidency a Presidency of healing, harmony and hope.

Let us work together to shape a new paradigm - of human-centric globalisation.