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Following Shinzo Abe’s footsteps, Japan’s new PM Fumio Kishida will be another ‘friend of India for life’

Fumio Kishida calling on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Tokyo in October 2018 (Image courtesy: PIB)

The 'Special Strategic and Global Partnership' between New Delhi and Tokyo is expected to get further strengthened when Fumio Kishida takes over as the 100th Prime Minister of Japan on Monday.

A former foreign affairs and defence minister, Kishida has in the past lauded the long-standing commitment and the extraordinary warmth between Asia's two largest and oldest democracies.  

Taking over from Yoshihide Suga, who has been at the forefront of the battle with Covid for the past year, 64-year-old Kishida has promised to build a new Japanese-style capitalism, formulating economic measures on the scale of several tens of trillion yen by the end of the year.
He has also affirmed to promote diplomatic security policy and build a free and open Indo-Pacific, vowing to show Japan's presence in the international community while protecting its national interests.

Once regarded as former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's "handpicked successor", Kishida lost to Suga in the presidential election in September last year.

Now, having won the race to lead Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party, Kishida will start working on contributing to solving global issues and forming an order for the new era of post-corona based on the "trust" from the world that has been built up over the years to Japan.

Long journey before the perfect pitch for prime ministership 

Born on July 29 1957, Kishida is from the third generation of a politician family with both grandfather Masaki and father Fumitake, serving as members of the House of Representatives in Hiroshima. His uncle Hiroshi Miyazawa also grew up in an environment closely related to politics, such as serving as a member of the House of Councilors from the governor of Hiroshima Prefecture.

After graduating from university, working at a bank and working as a secretary for a representative, he was elected to the top from Hiroshima 1st district in the 40th House of Representatives general election in 1993 in the face of headwinds against the Liberal Democratic Party.

Feeling repulsion from the political atmosphere at the time when the image and boom preceded, he started his activities as a member of the Diet (Japanese parliament) with the motto "Politics that can withstand history".

In 2007, Kishida was made Minister of State for Special Missions in the first Abe cabinet. In December 2012, he was appointed as the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the second term for the Abe cabinet.

In his tenure of four years and eight months, Kishida played an important role in the first-ever Japan-UK-Japan-Russia 2 + 2, Japan-Korea agreement, G7 Hiroshima Foreign Ministers' Meeting and during US President Barack Obama's visit to his constituency, Hiroshima. He also briefly served as Minister of Defence in 2017.

A huge fan of the Hiroshima Carp baseball team, Kishida also loves working out in the gym.

A friend of India who wants to make Indo-Pacific region the epicentre of global prosperity

During his campaign for the top post, Kishida had emphasised on promotion of a free and open Indo-Pacific concept through networking of the League for Democracy, such as promotion of "2 + 2 with comrades such as Japan, the United States, Australia and India".

Just like Abe and Suga, he values Japan's association with India which has been strengthened by shared values of belief in democracy.

In January 2015, Kishida chose India as the first country to visit following his reappointment as the foreign minister, saying that it was because of his belief that the partnership between Japan and India is a special one.  

Also Read: India's North East can help shape Asia's future, says Japan

"It is a partnership that should drive the advent of the new era; an era when the Indo-Pacific region becomes the epicentre of global prosperity. The Pacific and Indian Oceans are beginning to link together as the oceans of freedom and prosperity. Countries across the region have been achieving remarkable economic development," the Japanese minister had said while speaking at an event organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs.

Highlighting the role he believed the special partnership between Japan and India should play in the Indo-Pacific region, Kishida had at that time proposed strengthening of "three bridges".
The first bridge, he said, was of "values and spirit" – with both Japan and India not only promoting universal values such as democracy, freedom, open economy and the rule of law but also the ideas of tolerance, inclusiveness, non-violence and love for humanity. "India, the birthplace of Buddhism, and Japan, which has adopted Buddhism and various other religions and harmonized them with its traditional spirit, can be described as the two major standard-bearers of Asian spirituality," he said.

The second bridge, according to Kishida, is that of a “vibrant economy” which had grown stronger under 'Abenomics' and 'Modinomics'. The future PM of Japan had then spoken about development initiatives in North East India, which will serve as a connective node between the two regions. "The Japan-India economic relationship, which has grown stronger in recent years, should be further improved to facilitate an even greater contribution to the entire Indo-Pacific region," said Kishida.

"Open and stable seas" was the third bridge, said the Japanese Foreign Minister, which should be further strengthened with cooperation through defence equipment cooperation. "This region is bound together by seas, extending from the Indian Ocean through the South China Sea to the Pacific Ocean.  Both India and Japan are maritime countries whose interests depend on the safety of sea lanes," Kishida had commented six years ago.  

As he begins a fresh innings, this time as a captain, Kishida is expected to, in partnership with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, strengthen these three bridges that connect the Indo-Pacific region and also the friendship between both the countries which is rooted in spiritual affinity and strong cultural and civilizational ties. 

Also Read: India-Russia-Japan partnership in the Russian Far East can be a game-changer in the post-pandemic world