In a display of decades-old personal ties with India, Japan’s visiting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Thursday recounted his family’s links with India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, at a business event that followed summit-level discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“My grandfather, Prime Minister Kishi, loved India. He was introduced personally by Prime Minister Nehru to the Indian people. Like my grandfather, I also hope to have strong ties with the Indian people,” Mr. Abe said as a large audience and PM Modi applauded his personal ties.
During Prime Minister Kishi’s 1957 visit to India, Mr. Nehru introduced his guest in a public rally saying, “This is the Prime Minister of Japan, a country I hold in greatest esteem.”
Mr. Abe recounted this incident during his 2007 visit to India as well, when he addressed a Joint Session of the Parliament.
“My grandfather visited India in the 1950s and, as you know, we were [then] still recovering from the defeat in the war,” said Mr. Abe, indicating that Mr. Nehru’s gesture had created a personal connect between the two prime ministers of post-war India and Japan. Mr. Abe hails from a prominent Japanese political family that has given that country several leading public figures.
During his 2011 visit, Mr. Abe recalled, “As a young boy seated on his knee, I would hear him [his grandfather, Mr. Kishi] telling me that Prime Minister Nehru introduced him to the biggest audience he had ever seen in his lifetime — that of a hundred thousand people.”
Mr. Kishi remains a controversial historical figure due to his role in wartime Japan’s actions in China. He served in Japan’s wartime government under General Hideki Tojo, but later rose to become the leader of his post-war country.
He has drawn heavy criticism from China in recent years due to his role in 1931’s ‘September 18 event’, which marked the beginning of the Japanese occupation of China that lasted till 1945. In a museum in the city of Shenyang in northeastern China, opened in 2014, Mr. Kishi was described as “a Class A war criminal” by the Chinese authorities.