Shinzo Abe – The architect of the 21st century Indo-Pacific order

Despite the good, the bad and the ugly of Abe-San’s past, his contribution to Japanese politics and the Indo-Pacific regional order is irrefutable.

It is the book Majma-ul-Bahrain by the 17th century Mughal prince, Dara Shikoh, which was honored by the former Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, who used its title as a metaphor for rethinking the ” Asia-Pacific” into “Indo-Pacific”. on Indian soil. Clearly, Abe-San (attributed as the “Father of QUAD”) brought India to the heart of his Indo-Pacific policy as part of his famous speech, “Confluence of the Two Seas” to the Indian Parliament in 2007. Last week, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister and one of the most influential leaders of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) was shot dead during an election campaign speech. It comes as a severe jolt to the Japanese people in a country ranked among the top 10 peaceful countries in the world, with strict gun laws and where political violence predates the pre-World War II era. The last time such an assassination took place in a developed country was in 1986 when Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme was shot and killed.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was one of the greatest leaders in Japanese history with its fair share of controversy. Coming from a gigantic political dynasty in Japan, Abe-San had a dynamic and consistent political career. An example here is his two grandfathers on either side who had diametrically opposed views/ideologies on the politics of Japan. Abe’s worldview of the Japanese military was tilted towards his maternal grandfather, the militarist/hawkish stance of Nobosuke Kishi (Kishi was nicknamed “Monster of the Showa Era” in northeast China for his ruthless rule). In his speeches, he rarely mentioned his paternal grandfather Kan-Abe, known for his dovish stance – as a symbol of peace, actively campaigning against Japan’s involvement in World War II. When the Japanese Constitution was rewritten to usher in democratic reforms in the post-war period after its unconditional surrender, Article 9 was included in it to renounce war forever and not maintain a land war potential, sea ​​or air. Shinzo Abe had always tried to amend the Japanese Constitution in favor of the military by recognizing the new geopolitical realities of the 21st century.

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Several Japanese prime ministers, before Abe, had apologized to other nations for Imperial Japan’s war crimes during World War II. However, Abe either refrained from mentioning such horrors or clearly refuted them. He even downplayed the issue of “comfort women” – it is estimated that around 200,000 Asian women from China and South Korea were kidnapped and treated as slaves for Japanese soldiers at “comfort stations” during the Second World War. World War. The South Korean and Japanese governments are also embroiled in economic disputes at the World Trade Organization over forced labor, environmental concerns, and more. Abe has also been criticized for his anti-China strategies in the Indo-Pacific region by the Chinese Communist Party. Thus, calls for celebration grew in nationalist sections of Chinese and South Korean media over his death.

Despite the aforementioned controversies, Abe is considered an outstanding leader due to his strong sense of the state and his ambitious outlook on society, the economy, and international relations. He was known as one of the greatest champions and leaders of the liberal order in Asia. He made Japan the “intelligent power par excellence” and pushed it beyond its diplomatic and economic weight through its regional diplomacy and what is called “Abenomics” at the national level. When Abe returned to power in 2012 for the second time, Japan was in recession and had lost its position as Asia’s largest economy to China and India. Through “Abenomics”, he revived the Japanese economy via three major strategies or the “three arrows” – ultra-low interest rates, easy government spending and structural economic reforms to boost productivity.

On the regional front, as America “pivoted to Asia” and India “looked East”, Abe made Japan “look West” and built strong coalitions with the India, Australia and ASEAN countries to strengthen the “arc of democracy” against aggressive Chinese actions in the region. Former US President Donald Trump in 2017 borrowed Abe’s phrase of a “free and open Indo-Pacific” during his visit to Vietnam. QUAD 2.0 was created with India having 2+2 dialogue mechanisms with the three QUAD members, namely Japan, USA and Australia. Besides the historic Japanese overseas development assistance (ODA) to India, which is shifting to a special strategic and global partnership between the two nations, the relationship dominates the Delhi metro, high-speed rail projects and Indo-Japan peaceful nuclear deal. Abe and Prime Minister Modi launched the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor (AAGC) to provide alternatives to China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the region, as well as joint projects in Sri Lanka and the Maldives. To underpin these regional frameworks, the current governments of Japan and India have also collaborated on the Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) with Australia in 2021 and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) recently concluded with the United States and others in 2022.

Abe’s vision in his speech on the “confluence of the two seas” can easily be seen as the forerunner of the aforementioned multilateralism and transparent networks in the Indo-Pacific region. Today, while nations like India, Australia, the United States and others pay fitting tribute in honor of Shinzo Abe, nations like China share a complicated history with the dynasty whose he comes from. Even in moments of shared condolences at such events, media narratives of Indo-Pacific nations are becoming increasingly polarized; rarely being on the same wavelength, subtly alluding to the divisions of the region. Despite all the outcry over certain political scandals, Abe’s glorious diplomatic and political footprints cannot be erased. This is also cemented by the outpouring of tribute messages around the world as well as the victory of the PLD coalition in the last Japanese parliamentary elections.

(Disclaimer: The views of the author do not represent the views of WION or ZMCL. WION or ZMCL also does not endorse the views of the author.)


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Post expires at 7:47am on Thursday July 21st, 2022