Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe: A Rare Affinity

Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe: A Rare Affinity
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi was only the third person that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe followed on Twitter, after his wife and a politician from that country.

The two leaders, both right-wing nationalists elected on a pledge to revive their countries' economies, share an interest in shoring up regional alliances to counter an increasingly assertive China.

Both men are seen as strong leaders who have championed deregulation to kickstart their countries' flagging economies. They also enjoy an unusually warm relationship. (To Tokyo With Love: PM Narendra Modi Tweets in Japanese Ahead of Key Visit)

In Japan, PM Modi, 63, will first meet Mr Abe, 59, privately in the historic city of Kyoto before holding official talks in Tokyo, seeking to capitalise on their close relationship to boost trade between Asia's second and third largest economies. ('Eagerly Waiting for Your Arrival': Japan's Shinzo Abe to Narendra Modi)

It is Mr Modi's first bilateral visit outside South Asia since taking office, signalling the importance of a nation he said offered "immense scope for cooperation".

Mr Modi visited Japan twice when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat state, and met Mr Abe on both occasions.

"Japan's friendship with India is time tested. We are 2 vibrant democracies committed to advancing peace and democracy in the world," Mr Modi tweeted on Thursday in both English and Japanese.

"The common ground of their policies is expected to benefit both the Japanese and Indian economies," said Takehiko Yamamoto, an international politics expert at Waseda University.

Both are also leaders of countries embroiled in territorial disputes with China. The United States, Japan's key ally, is concerned about Beijing's growing economic and military clout, and would welcome a closer relationship between New Delhi and Tokyo, which geographically bookend China.

"The visit by Modi would offer an opportunity for the leaders to confirm a long-term cooperation in their effort to softly contain China," said Mr Yamamoto.

Indian foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said Mr Modi's focus would be to boost Indian exports -- he is reportedly travelling with a large business delegation -- and seek Japanese support in infrastructural developments.

This could include Japanese investment in new high-speed train networks after the new government said the country's dilapidated railways needed an "immediate course correction".

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