‘When Shinzo Abe wore the golden jacket I gifted him’

Dr. Shamsheer Vayalil, Special to Gulf News

The whole world is mourning the tragic demise of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. He will be remembered as a great statesman who built an enduring legacy of foreign policy and made important strides in revitalizing his country’s economy. 

In 2015, my business trip to New Delhi coincided with his official three-day visit to strengthen India-Japan bilateral ties. I got a unique opportunity to meet him on the first day of his trip to discuss medical technology cooperation opportunities with Japan. Ahead of the meeting, I remembered reading about Abe’s paternal grandfather’s connection with India. His grandfather, the then Japanese Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi, was introduced to Members of Parliament by the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru saying, “This is the Prime Minister of Japan, the country I respect the most.” 

Golden jacket

The memory of reading about Shinzo Abe’s grandfather inspired me to pick out a golden beige-coloured Nehru jacket to present to the Japanese leader. After greeting him, I presented the jacket to him. He was intrigued when he saw the golden beige jacket and said let us try it on now. He asked me to help him put the jacket over his white shirt. He then happily posed for a photo wearing the jacket. He didn’t remove the jacket even when I left, making it seem like a symbol of friendship between India and Japan.

 A pleasant surprise

The second day, along with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Japanese leader visited Varanasi. It was a significant visit that attracted attention from the international media. The highlight of the day was when both the leaders participated together in the Ganga Aarti at Dashashwamedh Ghat. During the event, Shinzo Abe was dressed in the golden beige jacket over a black shirt. It was when the images of him walking towards the Ghat for the ceremony appeared on TV that I realized the extent to which the gift had been appreciated. While it is customary to give gifts to our guests, it fills our hearts when they accept the gifts wholeheartedly. I was happy and proud to see him wear the jacket. Shinzo Abe was a great leader who createdopportunities for entrepreneurs and investors. He was a crucial link in strengthening the relationship between India and Japan. This attack on Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister is condemnable. His untimely demise is a great loss to the world.

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