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Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga
Japan's new Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga

Modi congratulates Suga, looks forward to boost India-Japan ties

  • Suga, the former chief cabinet secretary in former prime minister Shinzo Abe’s administration, is expected to stick closely to policies championed by his predecessor, including close ties with India.

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday congratulated Yoshihide Suga, the former chief cabinet secretary who replaced Shinzo Abe as Japan’s prime minister.

Suga was elected prime minister by parliament on Wednesday, and is expected to stick closely to policies championed by his predecessor, including close ties with India.

“Heartiest congratulations to Excellency Yoshihide Suga on the appointment as Prime Minister of Japan @kantei. I look forward to jointly taking our special strategic and global partnership to new heights. @sugawitter" Modi said in a Twitter post.

Suga, 71, won 314 of the 462 valid ballots cast in the lower house of parliament, where his ruling Liberal Democratic Party holds a commanding majority with its coalition partner, AFP reported. “According to the results, our house has decided to name Yoshihide Suga prime minister," lower house speaker Tadamori Oshima told parliament after the votes were counted.

Suga is expected retain a number of ministers from Abe’s administration.

Suga said he will prioritize keeping coronavirus infections under control and kickstarting Japan’s economy, besides continuing with Abe’s key policy programmes.

Abe’s resignation on Wednesday brings the curtains down on a period that saw an unprecedented deepening of India-Japan ties. Abe was seen in India as a friend who invested in the India-Japan relationship.

In remarks last week, foreign minister S. Jaishankar noted that Abe had changed Japan’s perception of India.

During a visit to Tokyo in 2014, soon after his election win, Modi and Abe elevated ties to “special strategic and global partnership". During the visit, Japan promised India $35 billion in foreign direct investment over five years.

“The Abe era also played an instrumental role in enabling India’s economic modernization. Tokyo is not just a leading source of Official Development Assistance, but also a top source of FDI. From mega industrial corridors, high- speed rail, and modernizing the urban rapid transport system, Japanese development assistance has been an enabler," said Titli Basu, associate fellow, Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, in a recent article in the Hindustan Times.

“But it is not just mega projects in economic epicentres. Abe has successfully steered development assistance in strategic peripheries, including the northeast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Japan’s commitment to the northeast is projected through the upcoming industrial township in Assam to road connectivity projects that advances quality infrastructure and links the northeast to the regional value chains and markets of Southeast Asia," she said in her article.

One of the key features of the Abe era was the crystallizing of the ‘Quad’ group, which includes India, the US and Australia besides Japan. Viewed as anti-Beijing especially by China, the group has championed a free and open Indo-Pacific with unfettered access to the global commons like sea lanes and airspace.

Days after Abe announced his resignation at the end of last month, India and Japan signed a logistics support pact that allows for interoperability and use of each other’s military facilities. The pact also allows for closer cooperation between the two armed forces and facilitates reciprocal provision of supplies and services.

In a farewell call to Abe last week, Modi conveyed his gratitude to the outgoing PM for playing a key role in strengthening ties. The Indian foreign ministry said the two leaders expressed confidence that “the strong momentum attained in partnership between the two countries in the last few years will continue unabated in the future".

“Made a phone call to my dear friend @AbeShinzo to wish him good health and happiness. I deeply cherish our long association. His leadership and commitment have been vital in taking India-Japan partnership to new heights. I am sure this momentum will continue in the coming years," Modi tweeted later.

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