Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe has won a decisive victory when his Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) established a clear majority in the upper house of parliament in the recent polls. He can look forward to enjoying an election-free, quiet period of three years. The voters have appreciated his success in stimulating Japanese economy through new monetary stimulus and currency depreciation. As Abe told his cabinet colleagues, if they failed to breathe new life into Japan’s $5 trillion economy and spread the benefits of the turnaround to more of the population, the honeymoon could end abruptly. After all, the public’s patience with prime ministers is limited, as none of the past six held office for over 15 months.
Abe would have to be extra-cautious about his plans to revise the pacifist constitution to allow a full-fledged military, instead of its current defence forces. By law, changing the constitution would require approval by a majority of voters in a referendum. Given the LDP’s history of governing Japan for half a century before being ousted four years ago, the party cannot be expected to adopt a hawkish path. For India, Abe’s success is of great significance. During his earlier tenure, he showed considerable interest in strengthening India-Japan relations, as underscored by prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Tokyo immediately after Abe’s return to power.
Japan is one of India’s closest partners in progress. The Delhi Metro is just one of the infrastructure projects Japan has supported. The rail corridor project, now on the drawing board, is another. Bilateral talks on reaching a nuclear agreement are expected to begin soon. The electoral success will help Abe restart talks that are opposed by the powerful pacifist lobby. For India, a nuclear agreement with Japan is of paramount importance. It will not only help obtain resources for India’s nuclear plants, but also help procure components and enriched uranium from other nations.