The longest serving head of the state, Shinzo Abe had made an immemorial mark on Japan’s foreign policy and economic strategy popularly known as “Abenomics”. The 67-year old led his party Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to victory twice in the national elections. He was Japan’s Prime Minister (PM) twice, the first one being a short stint from 2006 to 2007, and the second one with a remarkable comeback in 2012 that lasted till 2020 when he resigned due to health reasons. 

When Abe became PM of Japan in 2006, the country was reeling under severe economic crisis which was magnificently brought back to track with Abe’s signature Abenomics. The policy strategy, which was particularly designed to revive Japan from its two decades of economic stagnation, was focused on fiscal stimulus, structural reforms and monetary expansion. Furthermore, the disaster management policies at home during the 2011 Tsunami and resultant Fukushima explosions strengthened his gait as a strong statesman. 

For India, more than the sad demise of the former head of its natural ally, Abe’s passing amounts to the loss of a true friend of the country. 

Abe’s strategic thinking had a pivotal effect on heightening Tokyo’s foreign policy outlook and voice in international platforms. Much of his hawkish foreign policy outlook in his second stint as the Prime Minister was centred on the ambition to amend Japan’s post-war pacifist constitution and build its image as a capable leader in the region and across the globe. However his nationalist views on the controversial Yasukuni Shrine also proved to be controversial in relations with China and South Korea. However, his legacy in the Indo Pacific will far outlive any of his predecessors’ vision for the country and region at large.

The Foreign policy Genius

Abe’s foreign policy vision for Japan was founded on the three main pillars of being a promoter of international norms and rules, a guardian of the global commons and an effective ally of the US. His second Prime Ministership kicked off with warming relations with Southeast Asian countries by going on an Asia Pacific tour with his then Foreign Minister, and current head of the government, Kishida Fumio. The fact that this diplomatic trip was undertaken prior to their Washington visit speaks volumes of the centrality Abe attributed to the regional powers in the Indo-Pacific. 

According to Abe, regional diplomacy in the Indo Pacific rested on adhering to universal values, predominance of governance of maritime commons by laws and rules, and not by might,  the vitality of networking, and trade and investment in deepening economic ties, and the promotion of intercultural ties between Japan and the region. 

As a defender of the liberal international order, he was a proponent of the Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP), which he envisioned through a cherished partnership with the democracies in the region such as India, Australia and the US via QUAD. In his 2007 visit to India, Abe talked about “the confluence of the two seas” foreshadowing the primacy of Indo-Pacific in the bilateral and multilateral relations of the two countries in the years to come. 

India-Japan relations

In 2006, Delhi and Tokyo formed a Strategic and Global Partnership and the two countries are considered natural allies in trade, military exercises and consensus on rules based maritime order bringing the two countries closer. At subnational level, Japan’s investment in the Indian state of Gujarat has also helped form a strong connection with the state’s then Chief Minister Modi. The warmth in Abe-Modi’s relations would further elevate India’s foreign relations with Japan once Modi comes to power at the centre. 

After a target of 3.5 trillion Japanese Yen (JPY), announced for India through the Investment Promotion Partnership in 2014 was achieved, a further investment of 5 trillion JPY is promised with both governments exploring possible investment destinations and opportunities. Japan-India relations is monumental in effectively collaborating against the belligerent rise of Beijing who is posing grave threats to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of both the countries. 

In the event of Abe’s assassination, Japan has lost a visionary and India a staunch supporter of its core democratic values and foreign policy initiatives, but his legacy continues to live through his farsighted vision for not just Tokyo but the region at large. 

Image source: The Diplomat

Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.

+ posts

Sharon Susan Koshy is a Research Associate at Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR). She completed her Masters in IR and Political Science from Central University of Kerala, and MPhil in Political Science from the University of Hyderabad. For her MPhil thesis, she explored the themes of state and feminist negotiations in post-Arab Spring Egypt. Sharon had also secured the UGC-Junior Research Fellowship during her research period in Hyderabad and Chennai. Her academic interests pertain to IR theory, gender politics, refugee studies, intersectionality, and area studies of South Asia, West Asia and North Africa, and Indo Pacific.

Sharon Susan Koshy
Sharon Susan Koshy
Sharon Susan Koshy is a Research Associate at Centre for Public Policy Research (CPPR). She completed her Masters in IR and Political Science from Central University of Kerala, and MPhil in Political Science from the University of Hyderabad. For her MPhil thesis, she explored the themes of state and feminist negotiations in post-Arab Spring Egypt. Sharon had also secured the UGC-Junior Research Fellowship during her research period in Hyderabad and Chennai. Her academic interests pertain to IR theory, gender politics, refugee studies, intersectionality, and area studies of South Asia, West Asia and North Africa, and Indo Pacific.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.