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India pays tributes to its 'great friend' Shinzo Abe; state mourning on Saturday

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New Delhi, July 8: India on Friday announced a day of mourning as a mark of respect to its "great friend" ex-Japanese premier Shinzo Abe, whom President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi described as a statesman and an outstanding leader.

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    Abe, 67, the longest-serving prime minister of Japan, was assassinated in the west Japanese town of Nara while he was campaigning for his party. He was airlifted to a hospital for emergency treatment but was not breathing and his heart had stopped. He was later pronounced dead despite emergency treatment.

    India pays tributes to its great friend Shinzo Abe; state mourning on Saturday

    "I find it difficult to believe that Shinzo Abe is no more. He was a great statesman, and his infectious affability endeared him the world over. That he fell prey to an assassin's bullet is a tragedy for the whole humanity. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the people of Japan," President Kovind said on Twitter. Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu also said he was anguished by the demise of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

    "Mr Abe played a crucial role in strengthening India-Japan ties. My deepest condolences to his family members and the people of Japan," he said on Twitter. Modi recalled his personal association with Abe, whom he last met in May this year during his Japan visit, and said he was a towering global statesman, an outstanding leader, and a remarkable administrator, who dedicated his life to making Japan and the world a better place. Describing Abe as his "dear friend", Modi said as a mark of India's deepest respect, one-day national mourning shall be observed on July 9.

    The national flag will be flown at half-mast throughout India on Saturday on all buildings where it is flown regularly. In emotional posts on Twitter, Modi said that during his recent visit, he discussed many issues with Abe, but "little did I know that this would be our last meeting". The Prime Minister said he was shocked and saddened beyond words at the tragic demise of one of his "dearest friends".

    "My association with Mr. Abe goes back many years. I got to know him during my tenure as Gujarat CM and our friendship continued after I became PM. His sharp insights on economy and global affairs always made a deep impression on me," the Prime Minister said. "He was witty and insightful as always. Little did I know that this would be our last meeting. My heartfelt condolences to his family and the Japanese people," Modi said.

    "Mr Abe made an immense contribution to elevating India-Japan relations to the level of a Special Strategic and Global Partnership. Today, the whole of India mourns with Japan and we stand in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters in this difficult moment," he said. Sharing a picture with Abe during his recent meeting in Tokyo, he said, "always passionate about strengthening India-Japan ties, he had just taken over as the Chairman of the Japan-India Association." Later at an event, Modi said, "Shinzo Abe was not only my friend but a trusted friend of India," and added that during Abe's regime, the India-Japan relationship touched new heights and carried forward a shared heritage.

    Former prime minister Manmohan Singh sent his condolences in a letter to the Japanese Ambassador in India Satoshi Suzuki. He also asked him to convey to members of Abe's family and the people of Japan his deepest condolences on this sad occasion. "I am deeply saddened and shocked to learn about the tragic assassination of Former Prime Minister His Excellency Shinzo Abe. He was a good friend of mine. "During my tenure as Prime Minister, we worked to raise both our countries' ties to the level of a global and strategic partnership. Our efforts elevated India - Japan relations to a qualitatively new level," Singh said.

    Home Minister Amit Shah and other union ministers also described Abe as India's "valued friend" and said his efforts in strengthening the India-Japan relationship will always be held fondly in our memories. Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also condoled Abe's demise saying the world has lost a great leader. A host of Congress leaders also expressed shock over the assassination of Abe, whom party chief Sonia Gandhi described as a "great friend" of India and who did a lot to strengthen ties between the two nations. "For many years, Abe was a great friend and well-wisher of India.

    He did much to expand and deepen the bilateral relationship between our two countries. I recall my meeting with him very fondly and vividly. It is a huge misfortune that has befallen Japan and indeed, the entire international community. He will be sorely missed," she said in her condolence message. Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi lauded his role in strengthening the strategic relationship between India and Japan. "Deeply saddened by the demise of former PM of Japan, Shinzo Abe. His role in strengthening the strategic relationship between India and Japan was commendable. He leaves behind a lasting legacy in the Indo-Pacific. My condolences to his family and the people of Japan," Gandhi said on Twitter. Former minister P Chidambaram said Abe clearly had a profound admiration for India and its people.

    "He did his best to strengthen relations between the two countries. His death is tragic for the people of Japan and for the developing world," he said. Former Union minister Ashwani Kumar, who was ex-PM Manmohan Singh's special envoy to Japan, said he was deeply disturbed and shattered over Abe's demise. "Words fail me in adequately expressing my sense of personal loss. I had the privilege of being his accompanying minister when he visited India in 2007. I was deeply touched by his deep humility and finer graces," Kumar tweeted. Abe has certainly left an indelible mark on Japan-India ties and shared a great rapport not just with Modi but and Singh also.

    In 2006, Singh and Abe had factored in the new challenges, and the relationship was upgraded to a Global and Strategic Partnership with the provision of annual Prime Ministerial Summits. In 2007, Abe became the first-ever Japanese PM to address a joint session of the Indian Parliament. Addressing the MPs, the Japanese leader recalled the time India's first PM Jawaharlal Nehru hosted Abe's maternal grandfather the then Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi in New Delhi in 1957.

    Abe was also the Chief Guest at the Republic Day parade in New Delhi in 2014. Then came a series of annual summits where the bonhomie between Abe and Modi was there for everyone to see. Prime Minister Modi visited Japan in 2014 and during that visit, the two sides upgraded the relationship to a 'Special Strategic and Global Partnership'. In subsequent visits, Abe and Modi included personal touch and cultural messaging to deepen the ties between the two nations further. From the two leaders attending the 'Ganga Aarti' and both leaders travelling on the 'shinkansen' (Japan's railway system) to Abe's Ahmedabad trip during which the two leaders held a road show and were clicked at the Sabarmati riverfront, the visits were high on optics and substance both. Abe's 2017 India visit during which he visited Ahmedabad also saw the laying of the foundation of India's first bullet train project.

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