Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday conveyed his "deepest condolences" at the death of former Japanese premier Shinzo Abe, a leader with whom he shared a warm personal relationship, and pledged to work with the current Japanese PM Fumio Kishida to find solutions to global problems.
The two leaders held a bilateral meeting on Tuesday morning, ahead of the state funeral for Abe. Modi is among the around 20 heads of state and government visiting Japan to attend the funeral.
While conveying his condolences, Modi noted Abe's contributions in "strengthening the India-Japan partnership as well in conceptualising the vision of a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region", the external affairs ministry said in a statement.
"We are meeting today in this hour of grief. After coming to Japan today, I am feeling more saddened because the last time I was here, I had a very long conversation with Abesan. I never thought that after leaving, I would have to hear such news," Modi said in his opening remarks at the meeting, speaking in Hindi.Abe, Japan's longest serving Prime Minister, was assassinated during an election campaign meeting on July 8. India announced one day of national mourning on July 9 as a mark of respect to Abe. PM Modi was in Japan last in May, for a meeting of QUAD.
"I am sure that under your leadership, India-Japan relations will deepen and scale greater heights. I firmly believe that we will be able to play a proper role in solving the problems in the world," he told Kishida.
Modi said Abe and Kishida, in his former role of the foreign minister, took India-Japan ties to new heights and expanded them in many areas. "Our friendship and the friendship of India and Japan played a huge role in creating a global impact," he said. The people of India remember and miss Abe, he added.
Modi and Kishida had a "productive exchange of views on further deepening bilateral relations" and discussed several regional and global , the foreign ministry statement said.
The leaders renewed their commitment to further strengthen the India-Japan special strategic and global partnership, and to work together in the region and at various international groupings and institutions.
Kishida expressed his intention to continue working with Modi to realise a free and open Indo-Pacific that builds on the diplomatic legacies of Abe, according to a readout from Japan's foreign ministry.
"The leaders exchanged views regarding the regional situation, including the situation in Ukraine. They reaffirmed their shared recognition of the importance of peaceful settlement of disputes as well as transparent and comparable development finance, and confirmed to continue working together in view of Japan and India's respective presidencies of the G7 and G20 next year," the readout said.
Kishida also said the period from this year, which marks the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations, to 2023, when Japan and India will lead the G7 and G20, offers an "excellent opportunity" to further strengthen the Japan-India partnership.
Besides attending Abe's state funeral at the Budokan, an indoor arena originally built for the 1964 Olympics, Modi participated in a greeting occasion at Akasaka Palace, where Kishida and Akie Abe, the former premier's widow, were present.
Abe and Modi elevated bilateral relations to the status of a special strategic and global partnership in 2014. The "Confluence of Two Seas" speech by Abe at a joint session of India's Parliament in 2007 laid the ground for the emergence of the Indo-Pacific region as a contemporary political, strategic, and economic reality, and his contributions to bilateral ties was recognised when India conferred the Padma Vibhushan, the country's second-highest civilian award, on him in 2021.