Shinzo Abe regards Manmohan Singh as one of his mentors and his trip to India is to pay tribute to the "tremendous accomplishments" of the Indian leader, a top official in Japanese Prime Minister's office said today.
Tomohiko Taniguchi, Councillor in Japan's Cabinet Secretariat and part of Abe's visiting delegation, told reporters here that the Japanese Premier regards Singh as a "dear friend".
Talking about the significance of Abe's visit to India, he said, "First of all it is to pay tribute to the tremendous accomplishments of Prime Minister Singh who Shinzo Abe has for many years regarded as one of his mentors. Knowing that Prime Minister Singh is soon ending his political career, Shinzo Abe wanted to pay a tribute to him."
Taniguchi recalled Prime Minister Abe's 2007 visit to India during which his health deteriorated.
"To me Abe looks like a born-again politician not in the religious sense of the word but in the physical terms," he said.
"When he was in India as Prime Minister in 2007, it was very much a bitter sweet experience for him, the speech he delivered at the joint session of the congress (Parliament) was applauded...but during his trip his illness became really really worse as a result he stepped down as Prime Minister upon returning back to Japan," Taniguchi said.
"So this is in part to regain confidence himself (Abe) to successfully conclude the bilateral visit," he said. The Japanese official spoke about the gestures made by Singh that have left a "lasting impression" on Abe.
"When Abe was ill during his India trip in 2007, Singh showed sympathetic attitude," he said.
As Abe made his next visit to India while not in office, Singh was just about to leave for a UN General Assembly session, however he, assembled at such a short notice 5-6 Cabinet members so that they could see Abe," Taniguchi said.
The official also recalled Prime Minister Singh's visit to Tokyo last year when Abe gave a state dinner.
"Prime Minister Singh you are much older than me, sometimes you look like a teacher and yet you are the one I can call a dear friend," Taniguchi quoted Abe as saying back then. Singh and Abe held extensive talks yesterday on bilateral, regional and global issues.
Abe, 59, today became the first Japanese Prime Minister to attend India's Republic Day celebrations as chief guest.