I am shocked and saddened beyond words, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said

Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, regarded as a champion of closer India-Japan ties, was assassinated on Friday.

He was mortally wounded after being shot at during a campaign meeting in Nara. He was declared dead after being flown to a hospital in Japanese capital Tokyo.

"I am shocked and saddened beyond words at the tragic demise of one of my dearest friends, Shinzo Abe. He was a towering global statesman, an outstanding leader, and a remarkable administrator. He dedicated his life to make Japan and the world a better place," Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.

India has declared a day of national mourning on Saturday for the former Japanese Prime Minister.

Prime Minister Modi tweeted, "Mr. Abe made an immense contribution to elevating India-Japan relations to the level of a Special Strategic and Global Partnership. Today, whole India mourns with Japan and we stand in solidarity with our Japanese brothers and sisters in this difficult moment".

Abe was the first Japanese Prime Minister to attend India's Republic Day Parade as the Chief Guest in New Delhi on January 26, 2014.

Prime Minister Modi and the late Japanese leader shared a warm personal relationship, dating back to the days when the former was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.

"My association with Mr. Abe goes back many years. I had got to know him during my tenure as Gujarat CM and our friendship continued after I became PM. His sharp insights on economy and global affairs always made a deep impression on me," PM Modi said on Twitter.

Soon after news of the attempt on his life came in early this morning, PM Modi had tweeted, "Deeply distressed by the attack on my dear friend Abe Shinzo. Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family, and the people of Japan."

Japan was PM Modi's first overseas destination after he took over as India's Prime Minister in 2014. During this visit, PM Shinzo Abe and Prime Minister Modi agreed to upgrade India-Japan bilateral ties to a "Special Strategic and Global Partnership".

The partnership has since included civilian nuclear energy, maritime security, bullet trains, and quality infrastructure. India and Japan have also been working together under the Act East policy and the Indo-Pacific strategy.

Abe visited India for the annual India-Japan Prime Ministers' Summits in 2015 and 2017. A high point of the 2015 visit was when he attended the Ganga Arti in Kashi, together with PM Modi.

Prime Minister Modi visited Japan again for the annual Summits in 2016 and 2018. In a special gesture, PM Modi was hosted by PM Abe for a private dinner at his ancestral home in Yamanashi in October 2018, the first such reception to be extended to a foreign leader.

PM Modi also visited Japan in 2019 to participate in the G20 Summit held in Osaka and had a bilateral meeting with PM Abe.