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Former envoy to Japan Deepa Wadhwa
Former envoy to Japan Deepa Wadhwa

Progenitor of Indo-Pacific concept, Shinzo Abe had special connect with India: Ex-envoy to Japan

By Heena Joshi | Updated: Jul 13, 2022 23:01 IST

New Delhi [India], July 13 (ANI): Former Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was the progenitor of the Indo-Pacific concept and gave it global currency, Deepa Wadhwa, a former Ambassador of India to Japan has said and noted that the late leader who was assassinated last week during a campaign speech had a special connect with India.
Deepa Wadhwa told ANI in an interview that Abe made the famous 'Confluence of the Two Seas' speech in India's Parliament during his first visit to the country as Prime Minister and this laid the foundation for the concept of Indo-Pacific.
"In the 'Confluence of Two Seas' speech, Abe saw the Pacific and Indian oceans as a continuum. With the importance given to this very dynamic region, it has become the centre for global economic growth," she said.
"The term used for the region was Asia-Pacific. The grouping APEC, which is basically the two shores of the Pacific, excluded India. Though India wanted to be a part of the APEC, we haven't got the membership. So Shinzo Abe included India in this Indo-Pacific concept which is an economically, strategically, geo-economically and geo-strategically important region of the world and made India one of the important pillar of that," she added.
She said that today the world has come to realize how critical the Indo-Pacific region is.
"Today you look at the Europeans in the Indo-Pacific policies. The American command in Hawaii, you have every region of the world accepting this concept of the Indo-Pacific. He was absolutely the progenitor of this concept. He really was the one who gave it a global currency," she said.
Shinzo Abe was assassinated during a campaign rally last week in the western city of Nara in Japan.
"Abe was always identified very clearly as somebody who was not only pro-India but was determined to change the India-Japan relationship, deepen it and strengthen it. He was very committed to it. We welcomed him when he became the Prime Minister of Japan in 2012," she said.
"I do recollect very well the sense of happiness among Indians because Abe was always seen as a very close friend to India. Somebody who had a very special connection with India even during his very brief stint earlier in 2007 when he came to India and addressed the combined houses of the Parliament and gave his famous 'confluence of the two seas' speech.
The Ambassador said that Abe's enormous bonding with the Indian people stemmed from his family's warm personal connection with the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
"One should go a little back in history where Abe has talked about how his special connect with India started with his grandfather Prime Minister Kishi who came to India in 1957. That was a very good phase of our relations in the fifties, soon after World War II. A lot of visits on both sides. It was an era of very high-end symbolism. We had a separate peace treaty with Japan," the former envoy said.
"Abe heard stories of India from his grandfather. He saw the welcome that he got when PM Kishi came to India. Prime Minister Nehru introduced him (Nobusuke Kishi) to the people of India saying this is the prime minister I have the greatest respect for. At that point in time, Japan was a pariah state after the war. And people did not go around saying that this is the country we have the greatest respect for," she added.
All this set the ground for a very positive perception of India which Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also endured, she said.
Deepa Wadhwa referred to Japan's assistance in giving a boost to infrastructure development in India including metros, Delhi-Mumbai industrial corridor and projects in the northeast.
She recalled the tributes paid by Quad members - India Australia and the US - to Abe as a transformative leader of Japan.
"The heads of three governments together Prime Minister Modi, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and US President Joe Biden issued a statement on his assassination and they talked about him as a transformative leader which is true because Abe came with ideas, out of the box ideas and he realized them, he worked for them."
Referring to Quad, the former envoy said that a lot what we talk about today is because of Abe's efforts.
"When he first talked about the Quad security initiative involving the four pillars of democracy (Japan, India, Australia and US), there were very few takers for it to begin with. The Chinese were upset. But it took a while and now see where the Quad is.
"The Quad has now developed. Therefore, a lot of what we talk about today is due to Prime Minister Abe. He had the patience to see the ideas being realized into something concrete. This is something quite amazing what he did."
Ambassador Wadhwa also recalled Abe's efforts towards bringing changes in Japan's constitution.
"Look at the pacifist constitution Japan inherited. It had constraints including some self-imposed constraints. Japan wanted itself to be seen as a pacifist state and that it is a peace-loving state after all of the bitter history of the war.
"Prime Minister Abe wanted to make Japan a normal country in the context of security because every country wants to be able to make the decision concerning its own security particularly when the security environment is unusual and changing.
"You suddenly have a much more muscular China, a China which is extending both its economic and military power in the region. You have disputes over the Senkaku Islands with the Chinese. The security environment around Japan is deteriorating plus North Korea which is armed with both nuclear weapons and missiles. He wanted to make Japan a country that could take decisions, secure itself and therefore become responder on its own security," she said.
The former envoy said that Japan not only put in efforts to secure itself but also gave a push to the concept of collective self-defence.
"Japan, which is still a peace-loving state, went beyond itself to be able to secure peace in other parts of the world. Therefore, in a way, Japan became a security provider globally. This was very, very difficult to do as there is very little stomach in Japan for moving away from the pacifist policy. Anti-piracy ops in Somalia, reconstruction in Iraq, in Afghanistan.. Japan used its force in times of disasters as well."
Referring to Malabar exercise, she said Abe single-mindedly wanted to make Japan a permanent member of this exercise. Navies of Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) countries participated in the 25th edition of the Malabar Exercise in August last year.
"I recall very well PM Abe wanted to have a permanent place in the Malabar exercise which happened in 2015," Ambassador Wadhwa said.
On the attack on Abe, she said Japan is considered a very safe society.
"These kinds of incidents can happen in any society. When we look at Japan it is an extremely safe society. There are apocryphal stories about how safe Japan is. The man who attacked Abe seems to be a lone player who has fallen off the edge of society. A loner... lived by himself. He was not mentally stable. The politicians in Japan campaign freely and openly."
She said Abe did a lot for the economic, political and social spheres in Japan and noted that one of the areas he was very committed to was gender diversity.
"He brought about positive changes in a lot of things. Getting women in the workplace at the higher levels of decision-making. Giving them more visibility," she said. (ANI)