What could be more of a signal of growing Indo-Japan ties than the fact that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe follows only three accounts on the micro-blogging site Twitter through his personal handle @AbeShinzo, and India’s Prime Minister designate Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) is one of them.
Abe, who seldom tweets in English, on Tuesday, tweeted to Modi, “Great talking to you, Mr. Modi. I look forward to welcoming you in Tokyo and further deepening our friendly ties.”
.@narendramodi Great talking to you, Mr. Modi. I look forward to welcoming you in Tokyo and further deepening our friendly ties.
— 安倍晋三 (@AbeShinzo) May 20, 2014
On May 19, three days after the BJP’s mammoth victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections was announced, Abe was among the first international leaders Modi thanked for congratulating him.
Modi underscored his personal opinion of the Japanese prime minister, further saying,
Personally, I have a wonderful experience of working with Japan as CM. I am sure we will take India-Japan ties to newer heights.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 19, 2014
The fact that Abe follows Modi and no other international head of state, not even United States President Barack Obama or Russian President Vladimir Putin, surely signals even deeper cooperation between two of Asia’s largest economies.
This bonhomie between India and Japan is not new. Ties between the two countries have traditionally been strong. They have, however, witnessed a particular upswing over the past couple of years, and Abe is largely to thank for this.
Ever since Abe was re-elected as prime minister in December 2012, he has dumped Japan’s pacifist policies for a more assertive role in international politics, especially in Asia. This has led to a rise in tensions with China, which is trying hard to consolidate its position as the military and economic superpower in the Pacific region.
To counter China’s rising territorial ambitions, which threatens and often conflicts with Japan’s, especially in the South China Sea, Abe, widely known as an Indophile, has reached out to India and sought its cooperation on strategic and geopolitical fronts. As the only major Asian country to have no military disputes with Japan, and the only competing superpower other than China that holds clout in the Asian geopolitical economy, India stands to gain a great deal from deepening the existing ties with Japan.
Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe already worked together extensively, while Modi was chief minister of Gujarat. After the US and European countries instated a visa ban on Modi for allegedly failing to prevent the 2002 Godhra riots, Japan was one of the first countries that Modi turned to for his state's economic development.
Maybe the first overseas visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi would be to meet his Twitter friend, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.