The current Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, led the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to victory in the May 2014 elections in India. As Prime Minister of India, one of Modi’s key concerns has been improving foreign relations, a task which he has been working towards with his engagement with Japan and their leadership.

In November 2015, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar held talks with Japanese officials in Tokyo to finalise plans for Japanese Prime Minister, Abe Shinzo, to visit India. On December 11th 2015, Prime Minister Abe was welcomed to India for a 3-day visit. Modi acted as a gracious host to the Japanese leader, accompanying him to Varanasi after they completed their talks. Known for being tech-savvy and for his presence on social media – he is in fact the second most followed politician on Twitter after Barack Obama – Modi took to Twitter to welcome the Japanese Prime Minister, calling him “a great friend and a phenomenal leader” and tweeting a message welcoming him to India, written in both English and Japanese. He also evoked his hopes for this visit to “provide new strength and vigour to India-Japan ties.”

A number of aims were planned for this visit, all of which had the purpose of improving economic and strategic relationships between India and Japan, and further the development of both countries.

One point on the agenda for Abe’s visit was to take part in the annual Summit talks between the countries’ leaders. In 2014, Modi visited Japan for Summit meetings with Abe, during which they discussed intentions to develop their defence and strategic cooperation, and Japan announced that they would double the public and private investment put into India over the next five years. The two leaders hoped to elevate the relationship between the countries to a “Special Strategic and Global Partnership.” Leading on from this, in 2015’s Summit talks the two leaders discussed developments over the past year, and finalised deals to build India’s first high-speed ‘bullet train’ network. They also discussed their civil nuclear agreement, and signed defence pacts allowing Japan to sell weapons to India.

The development of a bullet train in India, planned to be a route between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, is set to start in 2017, with an estimated cost of £9.6 billion. It has been estimated that this new technological feat will cut down travel time between the two cities by up to two hours. Japan plan to aid India financially in this new development, offering funding for 81% of the total project cost, with an interest rate of 0.1%. Having this new railway system in India will benefit the country in numerous ways; replacing the old railway system on this route will help to decrease accidents and derailments, making rail travel across the country much safer then with the previous lines. It will serve towards economic development, aiding those travelling for business, and will also help to boost trade. Modi set out his plans for a bullet train in India during his Prime Ministerial campaign, so the fact that it is coming to fruition is a testament to his determination and abilities as a Politician and negotiator.

Modi’s commitment to improving the state of the world, as well as his own country, was addressed with talks about combating climate change and committing to clean energy and energy efficient technology. As a spiritual and caring leader, Modi places high importance on policies such as these. During his time as a leading figure in India, Modi has developed a number of initiatives for the betterment of the country, including Make In India, Skill India and Clean India, all of which are fully supported by Japan. One of the aims of the Clean India initiative is to achieve a “clean India” by 2019, so these commitments made with Abe shall make great steps towards this goal.

This visit was highly influential to the India-Japan relationship, which they have been working on developing since the two countries signed a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2011. In an article about his visits to India, Abe Shinzo stated that, “Japan and India share fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law and strategic interests.” These core values linking the two countries, and their leaders, assisted the forging of the relationships between them, and will help them to grow in the future, allowing the two countries to develop at the same time. There is also a spiritual connection which aids the relationship and calls on Modi’s beliefs and spiritualism. Shinzo referenced this in the same article, claiming that “Japan and India share a tradition of Buddhism, as well as fundamental values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.” So, building this partnership further and strengthening the two countries shall, in time, spread these traditions and beliefs, with the hope of instilling attitudes in-line with peace and tolerance in more people, across more countries.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visit to India and his interactions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi have surely made great steps towards building a stronger India, a stronger Japan, and a stronger relationship between the two countries. As this relationship continues to build strength, more and more of Modi’s goals and plans for his country can be realised.

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