There is a popular proverb in Japanese, which states- “Shiawase na toki de wa naku, nani ka mondai ga okotta toki ni koso, yujin wa aijo o misete kureru mono da.” This means friends show their love in times of trouble, not in happiness. The saying truly symbolizes the series of condolence statements, tribute tweets and past memories made by Indian leaders, diplomats, officials and experts of international relations, post-assassination of one of the tallest stalwart of Japanese politics as well as global leadership legacy former and the longest serving Japanese Prime Minister (2012-20), Shinzo Abe. This is followed by announcement of a daylong national mourning, on Saturday i.e. 9th July in India in memory of Padma Vibhusan Shinzo Abe. His assassination is undoubtedly one of the darkest day for one of the most peaceful nation Japan, and entire global democratic panorama.
Though, most of the tributary pieces or write ups are sharing Abe’s legacy from his notable contribution in Indo-Pacific, Quad, his economics masterstroke-termed or popularized as ‘Abenomics’, one area which also needs to be put in attention is his catalytic and friendly role in helping India to come out of the so called “twilight zone of urbanization”, particularly in sub-domains of “smart cities ambition” and “rapid transportation infrastructure”, connecting our urban clusters or corridors.
Losing a true friend, a statesman, and an angel investor of urbanization at this moment have left many breakthrough memories and masterstrokes, which can be put under larger landscapes of dual dipoles of economic models say-policy magic of ‘Modinomics’ and ‘Abenomics’. During one of his speech at the ICWA in year 2011, Mr. Abe quoted that, “a strong India is in the best interest of Japan, and a strong Japan is in the best interest of India.”
India has been the largest recipient of Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) program, which has played a key role in developing India’s infrastructure through affordable loans and grants. The financial liaison amid India and Japan has always been on an augmentation binge, with a major overhaul taking place since 2014, when ‘Modinomics and Abenomics’ came together to advance Japanese presence in India through greater investments and incentives. The Delhi Metro project, envisioned and executed through Japan’s ODA, is a shining exemplar of what this vibrant association can accomplish with the right synergies in place. In year 2015, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited India, the country decided to bring the Japanese ‘Bullet Train’ system in India and augment connectivity in some of India’s biggest cities and speed up India’s economic growth. Thus, one of the most prominent pillars of Indo-Japanese collaboration is Japan’s unfathomable association in promoting connectivity and mobility in and around Indian cities.
After the success of the Delhi Metro, both nations decided to co-operate further to bring Japanese ‘Shinkansen’ trains and Industrial Corridors in India. The core objective of these collaborations was to expand India's manufacturing & services base and develop such National Industrial Corridors as a "Global Manufacturing and Trading Hub" based in India. This cooperation was further envisioned to provide a major momentum to planned urbanization in India with manufacturing as its key driver.
The National Industrial Corridor Development Program (NICDC) also aims to develop strong, resilient infrastructure linkages for India, like Greenfield Airports, high-capacity transportation and logistics facilities; Rail link projects etc. as well as softer interventions such as skill development initiatives to ensure up skilling of India’s local workforce engaged in these projects.
Also, Japan under the leadership of late P.M. Abe assisted India to catalyze and give acceleratory wings to one of the most ambitious urbanization project i.e. Smart Cities Mission (SCM). The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is to provide a concessional credit of INR 500 crores for smarter mobility project in Chennai city to develop intelligent transport systems for an efficient traffic management system to ease the city’s congestion and promote economic growth. JICA has signed an agreement with Government of India for setting up of a Chennai-based seawater de-salination plant at an ODA amounting to INR 1,800 crores.
He truly believed in India’s capabilities, when not many were willing to do so. In Shinzo Abe, India had a dear friend. He used to often tell the story of how his maternal grandfather, Nobusuke Kishi, who visited India as PM of a then-recently defeated nation after World War II, was overwhelmed by Indian magnanimity and generosity that just blew him away, with huge crowds coming to see him speak. Nearly teary-eyed while telling that story, it may explain why Shinzo Abe, who was told that story by his grandfather while sitting as a child on his lap, fiercely resisted the Japanese bureaucracy and some corporate honchos who cast doubt on India as having economic and infrastructural constraints and therefore not the best partner for Japan.
There is a very popular hymn in 700-verse Indian Scripture Shrimad Bhagavad Gita, which says ‘Nainam Chindanti Shastrani’, i.e. that the soul is formless, shapeless, limitless and doesn’t possess any physical attributes, but it still exists. The soul is birth-less, eternal, imperishable & timeless and is never destroyed, when the body is destroyed. If one applies the same in this scenario, cowardice terror attack can only kill a leader and not his legacy and India will always remember this great son born in Japanese soil and a true global stalwart, Shinzo Abe through his several policy masterstrokes not only in IR but also in other fields including urbanization and for the betterment of global humanism and peace building.
(Mr. Nayan is presently a Smart Cities Fellow at India Smart Cities Fellowship Program, NIUA-MoHUA, Government of India. The opinion expressed in this column is of the author)