NEW DELHI: India observed a day of national mourning on Saturday following the death of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who was assassinated while delivering a campaign speech the previous day.
Abe, 67, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, was pronounced dead on Friday night after a gunman shot him dead in the western Japanese city of Nara.
His death sparked a flood of tributes from current and former world leaders, and anger that a politician could be shot in broad daylight in one of the world’s safest societies, where guns are strictly controlled.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to social media to mourn Abe, whom he called one of his “dearest friends”. He tweeted: “I’m shocked and saddened beyond words by the tragic passing.”
Abe has been recognized in India for his role in strengthening bilateral relations and supporting New Delhi’s role in the Indo-Pacific region.
He also played a central role in the formation of the Quad, a strategic grouping comprising Australia, India, Japan and the United States.
“All of India is crying with Japan,” Modi tweeted. “We stand in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters at this difficult time.”
Modi, who declared July 9 a day of mourning after Abe’s death was confirmed, said the Japanese leader had made a “tremendous contribution” to improving bilateral relations.
Abe’s efforts in this regard have also been recognized by other high-profile figures in India, including Dr. Manmohan Singh, former prime minister and leader of the main opposition Congress party.
“He was a good friend of mine. During my tenure as prime minister, we worked to elevate the ties of our two countries to the level of a global and strategic partnership,” Singh said.
Abe, who had visited India four times while Japan’s prime minister, was honored as a chief guest in the Republic Day parade in 2014 and received the Padma Vibhushan, the second most Indian High Civil Honour, 2021.
He played a key role in the Indo-Japanese civilian nuclear pact. Reached in 2016, it was the first time that Japan, the only country to have suffered a nuclear attack, entered into such an agreement with a nation that is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“Shinzo Abe was a futuristic person who believed in harnessing the immense potential of the bilateral relationship between India and Japan. The civilian nuclear deal was the by-product of that belief,” said the Dr. Swasti Rao of the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis, a New Delhi-based think tank, to Arab News.
He said Abe had seen India as Japan’s “natural partner”, not only in terms of countering China’s growing influence and assertiveness in Asia, but also through proximities in culture, civilization and their democratic systems.
“It’s like the passing of an era,” Rao said. “He was someone who loved India. It wasn’t superficial, he was a real friend.