Shinzo Abe — an outstanding leader of Japan, a towering global statesman and a great champion of India-Japan friendship — is not among us anymore. Japan and the world have lost a great visionary. And, I have lost a dear friend.

I first met him in 2007 during my visit to Japan as the chief minister of Gujarat. Right from that first meeting, our friendship went beyond the trappings of office and the shackles of official protocol.

Our visit to Toji temple in Kyoto, our train journey on the shinkansen, our visit to the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, the Ganga Aarati in Kashi, the elaborate tea ceremony in Tokyo — the list of our memorable interactions is indeed long.