• Thu. Sep 29th, 2022

Abe’s Assassination: Whether a Sign of a Deeper Turmoil in World Politics

( By Gouri Sankar Nag and Manas Mukul Bandyopadhay )

Shinzo Abe’s Assassination was an unimaginable shock wave that engulfed not only this island nation but more than that it was quite unnerving for the Asians who are struggling hard to put their economy and politics back on right track at a time when the Covid is showing its red eye again and moreover the war between Russia and Ukraine is pushing things to a gloomy future. The situation in Sri Lanka is the worst where the angry masses have gone to the extreme to lay a siege to the Presidential palace, thus ringing the bell of a SOS call. Seen in this context our focus was on the macro scene where a new cold war like situation was gradually unfolding with over-confident Russia and Chinese saber-rattling. Needless to say that on this mega conflict Japan was on the side of the western bloc led by the US. But we could not contemplate that such a thing could happen in Japan which was peace loving, highly modernized and disciplined, hence largely free from internal vulnerabilities. But this hope was belied when the news came from Nara where the former Jap Prime Minister and the leader of the Liberal Democrat party, Mr Abe was engaged in political campaign  in support of his party candidate Kei Sato. There in front of the Yamoto – Saidaiji station suddenly the gun fire took place and Abe was found lying on the street. His white shirt was wet in blood. At once, Abe was admitted to Nara Medical University Hospital in a critical condition; but at 11:30 am local time in Japan, the doctors announced that the ex-Prime Minister had stopped breathing. Thus, Shinzo Abe (67), Japan’s longest-serving PM was shot dead on 8th July, 2022.

In a country like Japan, where strict arms laws are observed, the entire country was awe-struck by such a ghastly attack on the former PM. Really this attack stirred a country with some of the strongest gun control laws in the world. Shortly, afterwards, however, the police arrested a 41-year-old assassin named Tetsuya Yamagami.

Following Abe’s death, his successor, PM Fumio Kishida, halted his campaign and returned to Tokyo; he described the attack on his dear friend as ‘disgusting and barbaric’. In his words, ‘just before the election, this attack is a blow to democracy. Such incidents cannot be forgiven.’ The PM also directed all the members of the cabinet to return to Tokyo immediately. A businessman present at the scene of the attack described that ‘the sound was loud at first and after that the place was covered in smoke. Initially the sound of gunfire could not be detected; the shots were fired again when the security personnel came running.’ By then, Japan’s youngest Prime Minister, after World War II, had fallen to the ground. Many were screaming in panic. Although Abe was accompanied by security guards, the assassin was a few meters away. Of course, the local media claimed that the gunman was behind Abe. Surprisingly, he did not try to escape after the attack.

Nara police said that the assailant was from Nara area. He served three years in the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force. But lately he was unemployed. The investigators were looking into whether he was alone or any organization was involved in this incident. However, during the interrogation, the assassin said that he did this not out of political reasons, but out of resentment towards Abe. The Japanese media reported that the man’s original intention was to assassinate a head of a religious organization and he thought Shinzo Abe was associated with it which he held responsible for wrecking his mother’s finances and severing the family.

This is the first time since 1936 that a former Prime Minister has been assassinated.  Former Prime Minister Haskawa Marihito was also attacked at a hotel in Tokyo in 1994. However he somehow survived the journey. However, in 2007, the Mayor of Nagasaki was killed in a gang attack. However, such incidents are practically an exception in Japan compared to western liberal countries like USA. The citizens of Japan have always been proud of the democratic ethos in Japan. With a firm message not to bow to violence, the present Jap Prime Minister Kishida said, transparent elections would be ensured at any cost. Abe’s death was mourned by the US President Joe Biden although it may be noted that Abe was as unpopular among the political circle of Washington as he was to the Chinese ruling elites. Although it sounds paradoxical yet there is no gainsaying the fact that under Abe Japan was witnessing the wave of a new political assertiveness which was opposed to the in-built restrictions of the Peace Constitution of November 1946 framed under American directive. Although Japan adopted it under compelling circumstances which required it to renounce war, yet conceptually it was against the very notion of “sovereign right of a nation” to decide the course of settling disputes. Herein we find how the triumphant power, especially America sought to restrict the choice of the Jap state while kept herself free from any such appriori limitations. Although five major reforms that the Jap state was obliged to carry out in late 1940s were guided by the liberal idea of ‘democratic peace’, it undermined the position of Japan. In fact, in mid-1950s when the Social Democratic Party of Japan was formed, one of its agendums was to put an end to the American control over Japan. So today when China is breathing on the shoulders of Japan and the latter is eager to play a forward role in international politics, the constraint it is facing is due to its constitution. Gradually, therefore, Abe started taking initiatives for assertive approach, else any vacillation on its part would have benefitted China to take advantage of the Japanese helplessness to fill the void. Here it may be pointed out that China took an unilateral decision in 2013 to spread its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) over a disputed maritime area in the East China Sea that overlapped with the already existing Japanese ADIZ. In fact China plunged into this adventure knowing well that Japan would not be able to easily counter it militarily. So, the unlocking the brake on Japan’s rise as a military power was natural outgrowth of the changing security scenario in Asia where even North Korea was flexing military muscles. So, it was primarily China’s concern, and even America to some extent, that viewed Japan’s ambitious rise with suspicion. Contextually it was synchronized when China’s global footprint was rapidly increasing and many other small powers could have triggered new turmoil. So, Abe’s assassination might have a broad international angle because he was out to stir the hornets’ nest that made him a persona non grata in a deeper sense of the term. Even Mr. Abe was keen to expand Japan’s market in defence sector and he was seeking to enhance Japanese influence through deals to transform regional and global security. In that vein, he visited India and sought to convince the Indian side “to buy the Japanese-made US-2 maritime reconnaissance aircraft”. It was as remarkable as a heresy for Japan, which has traditionally been hesitant to supply Japanese-made military equipments to other countries. So, Abe’s assassination was not merely an act of violent reprisal; even it was not only a blow to Japan alone but it was a blow to the political audacity of middle powers at large to throw gauntlet to the Chinese and American supremacy. In fact, great power politics is the most potential barrier to the liberation of small and middle powers. Now in the absence of a seasoned leader like Shinzo Abe, needless to say, it would be an uphill task for Japan not only to qualify in the test of democracy but also to accomplish its goal to put an end to discriminatory external control.

( Writers Gouri Sankar Nag, Professor & Head, Department of Political Science, Sidho-Kanho-Birsha University, Purulia, West Bengal and Manas Mukul Bandyopadhay Associate Professor, PG Department of Political Science Hooghly Mohsin College, West Bengal ).

(The article is solely the opinion of the authors. The views expressed here are solely personal and not in any way connected to any organisation or any political party ).

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