World leaders from across the globe gathered in Tokyo on Tuesday for the state funeral of Japan’s slain former prime minister Shinzo Abe, Japan’s longest-serving prime minister, who was gunned down at an election rally in July.
The event -- which is estimated to cost Japanese taxpayers 1.65 billion yen (US$11.5 million) -- faces a huge backlash in Japan, due to Abe's controversial and polarising legacy.
A polarizing figure in Japanese politics, Abe's supporters described him as a patriot who worked to strengthen Japan's security and international stature, while his opponents described his nationalistic policies and negationist views on history of threatening Japanese pacifism and damaging relations with China and South Korea.
Commentators have said that his legacy pushed Japan towards more proactive military spending, security, and economic policies.
On July 8, Abe was assassinated while delivering a campaign speech in Nara two days before the 10 July upper house elections. The suspect, who was arrested at the scene, confessed to targeting the former prime minister because of Abe's ties with the Unification Church.
Abe's assassination was the first assassination of a former Japanese prime minister since 1936.
About 4,300 guests are attending the funeral, being held at the Nippon Budokan - a famous sports and concert arena in central Tokyo. Up to 1,000 soldiers will perform ceremonial duties at the ceremony. A military honour guard will fire 19 blank rounds from a cannon to salute Abe. The funeral ceremony began at 2.00 PM local time (10.30 AM IST).
World leaders gather
Among those who are attending the state funeral include at least 50 world leaders.
Visiting dignitaries include Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US Vice President Kamala Harris, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Vietnamese President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, South Korean Prime Minister Han Duck-soo, Philippines Vice President Sara Duterte-Carpio, Indonesia Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, and European Council President Charles Michel.
Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kushida is scheduled to meet with at least 40 of these leaders for bilateral talks, including PM Modi.
Modi meets Kishida, pays tribute to 'dear friend Abe san'
Meanwhile, during his bilateral meeting with Japanese PM Fumio Kishida, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday extended his heartfelt condolences to his dear friend "Abe San", late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
In his opening remarks to Japanese counterpart Fumio Kishida in Tokyo, he conveyed his personal loss as Abe was his dear friend.
"Today we are meeting in this hour of sorrow. The last time I came I had a long conversation with former Japanese PM Shinzo Abe. India is missing Shinzo Abe and remembering him and Japan," said PM Modi during a bilateral meet with Japanese PM Fumio Kishida.
He said that Abe had taken India and Japan relations to new heights and expanded them into many other areas.
"Abe took India and Japan relations to new heights and expanded it into many other areas. Our friendship played a key role in the growth of the global perspective. The people of India remember Abe San for all the good works he has done. They are missing Abe San.
"But, I do believe that under your leadership (Kishida), India-Japan relations will grow strong and will attain new heights and will play a major role in solving the problems of the world," added the Indian Prime Minister.
Japan PM Kishida thanked PM Modi for attending the funeral of Abe and said that PM Modi, along with PM Abe strengthened India-Japan ties.
"PM @narendramodi met Japanese PM @kishida230 & extended his deepest condolences on the untimely demise of former PM Shinzo Abe. Also had a useful exchange on further enhancing bilateral relations and working together towards realization of a free, open & inclusive Indo-Pacific," tweeted Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.