With Japan’s Prime Minister visiting India, it is worthwhile to understand the similarities between two countries as well as their leaders.
For Modi, Shinzo Abe may be the closest successful example he can find, when it comes to growth along with a nationalist agenda.
Shinzo Abe, a role model Modi can look up to
Shinzo Abe is considered a right wing nationalist and like Modi is known for striving hard to turn around the country’s economy to bring in prosperity.
As expected, Shinzo Abe is the favourite of right wingers in Japan and is the villain for leftists there. His views on World War II has been severely criticized by the leftists and intellectuals alike in Japan and he has been at receiving end of left opposition since being at the helm of affairs in Japan.
Notwithstanding the opposition, Prime Minster Abe has been able to muster enough support for himself whenever he needed them the most and passed the once unthinkable Security Bill, which now allows Japanese Defense forces to fight overseas as well as take part in a war even if Japan is not directly threatened.
This is considered to be the most significant shift in Tokyo’s defence policy since World War II, where Japan renounced the war and through Article 9 formally committed itself to a pacifist course.
Similarly the education policy, Where Shnizo Abe ’s administration has directed educational institutions to focus more on science, technology, economics and law to less on history and political science or anything that might be cast as liberal arts. Abe’s administration has put these changes as need of the hour to support nation’s fight with deflation dogged economy.
But the teachers population, which is considered as the strong hold of left politics, has been questioning and protesting over it as another attempt by Shinzo Abe to impose a “patriotic curriculum”—airbrushing Japan’s wartime history and producing graduates not just for economic development but for building military.
Whatever the protests may be, like his Security policy, Abe seems to have been successful in implementing the new education policy notwithstanding the leftist’s protests.
Coming to economic policies, Prime Minister Abe is credited with the improvement in the Japanese economy through a policy of combining increased government spending with unprecedented monetary easing, an approach which has been labeled “Abenomics”. It has yielded immediate results and country has managed to maintain current account surplus and get out of the clutches of prolonged recession.
Abe’s ability to overcome the ideologically driven political fight, to change a nation’s apologetic mind-set post World War II is commendable and it has been not just economic growth but national pride that seems to be the theme behind Abenomics.
Japan, Modi and India’s economic progress
Modi had visited Japan twice when he was Gujarat Chief Minister and it was no surprise when he picked up Japan for his first bilateral visit as Prime Minister.
Modi has been always been impressed with Japan and he has always maintained the significance of strong Indo-Japan relationship. Modi has always been quoting examples of Japan to impress up on his views on implementation of various development projects.
On his maiden visit to Japan as Prime Minister of India, he could get Japan pledging financial support for building infrastructure in India in a big way and now with Prime Minister Abe in India, we have seen announcements ranging from bullet train to Defense deals being signed and economic cooperation between both the countries scaling new highs.
Japan is the fourth largest FDI contributor to India and during Modi’s visits both the sides had set a target of $ 33.5 billion comprising both public and private finance from Japan to India over the next five years.
Prime Minister Modi has rightly said that no other country has played such an important role in India’s economic Progress than Japan.
India and Japan had inked a security cooperation pact, back in 2008 and now the pact seems to be more relevant than any time before.
India has always been wary of China’s presence in the surrounding waters and its growing influence around India, be it Sri Lanka, Nepal or Pakistan. Relationship has been further subject to tensions over the border disputes in the last few years.
Similarly the relationship between China and Japan has not been going that well for some time now. Firstly it was Japan’s refusal to acknowledge its wartime past to the satisfaction of China and then Japan accusing China of withholding its reserves of valuable rare earth laments and latest Senkaku Islands dispute.
Probably it is this situation that makes security cooperation with Japan in a way advantageous to India. Modi’s comment in Japan about expansionist mindset was supposed to be aimed at China and recent invitation to Japan to participate in Malabar Naval exercise too has been seen an expression of India’s displeasure at China’s presence in the Indian Ocean.
A strong ally in Japan will play as check mate to China, which should be just fine as long as India and China doesn’t cross the red lines.
Swatch Bharat Abhiyan and importance of Swatch Varanasi
During Modi’s Japan visit, India and Japan had signed a pact under which Varanasi city will be developed in to a smart city by using the experience of Kyoto, a smart city of Japan.
Under the Smart Heritage Cities programme, Kyoto has to provide cooperation in the fields of conservation and modernisation of cities, as well as in art, culture and academics to the city.
In a recent assessment on cleanliness carried out by Union Urban Development Ministry, Varanasi was ranked 418 on a list of 476 cities and various media reports showcased how the much publicized swatch bharat campaign has been a failure at Modi’s own constituency.
But all of that seems to have changed for good now, thanks to the Shinzo Abe ’s visit. Last few weeks UP administration, has been working tirelessly to clean up the city before the visit by Abe, Modi and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. By roping in Akhilesh Yadav, Modi has effectively got UP administration on its toes and in the process converted Varanasi to its cleanest in the recent memory. Various media reports suggest citizens of Varanasi feeling such cleanliness and fresh air for the first time in their lives. With Japan’s cooperation in converting Varanasi to the heritage smart city of India, Varanasi has the potential to become the poster city of swatch bharat campaign.
Modinomics via Aarti Diplomacy
Modi’s vision for India doesn’t seem to be a mere impressive economic growth but it is as much as about global recognition for India’s rich cultural heritage.
Modi effectively used the platform at UN to promote Yoga worldwide and now he is taking a step further in the same direction by showcasing Varanasi and Ganga Aarti to the whole world through the Aarti diplomacy.
Varanasi is considered as the holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism. City played an important role in the development of Buddhism. Several major figures of the Bhakti movement were born in Varanasi, including Kabir and Ravidas. Guru Nanak Dev visited Varanasi for Shivratri in 1507, a trip that played a large role in the founding of Sikhism. In the 16th century, Varanasi experienced a cultural revival under the Muslim Mughal emperor Akbar who couldn’t resist the spiritual experience and had built two large temples dedicated to Shiva and Vishnu.
Today evening ,first time ever two premiers of the state will participate in the famous Ganga Aarti at Varanasi and this historical moment will be flashed all over the world, highlighting India’s rich cultural heritage and Narendra Modi’s modinomics.
Modi’s way of doing business has been very different from his predecessors and inviting Abe to Varanasi does not seems to be just an invite rather it is to show case India’s rich spiritual and cultural heritage globally along with signing all those business pacts.
Varanasi diplomacy will be a great advertisement for Varanasi and Hinduism across the world. This will lead to more and more tourists coming down to India to experience the rich spiritual side of India.
Like Abenomics, Modinomics doesn’t just stop at economic growth but it gives equal importance to the nationalism or national pride. So we have two global leaders, representing similar views at Ganges engaging in Ganga Aarti and doing diplomacy of its kind.
For Narendra Modi, Challenges in India is quite similar to Japan. The left leaning intellectuals and media has always been opposed to any attempts to revive cultural pride in India as it is often labeled as Hindu fundamentalism.
Recent intolerance protests against Modi government have been one of such attempts to muzzle down the wider acceptance of right wing nationalism in India.
Modinomics is not common term yet but the way Modi is going about it, it may be a phenomena just waiting to happen.