The United States on Thursday joined the world in paying tributes to late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, saying he was among those who "recognized early that India and the USA could develop a partnership" for the benefit of the region and the world.
The government announced the national flag will be flown at half staff in mourning for seven days at government offices and Indian embassies overseas. He wrote on his official Twitter account: "India has lost a great leader with the passing of Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee".
He served as India's prime minister three times: first for just 13 days in 1996, then for about a year beginning in 1998 and then for a full five-year term, from 1999 to 2004.
"He (Vajpayee) put the nation on fast track with initiatives like Golden Quadrilateral project, the New Telecom Policy, the Sarva Siksha Abhiyan and the Fiscal Responsibility Act that laid down the path for future governments to follow", Dr Prathap Reddy, Founder & Chairman, Apollo Hospitals said. "Vajpayee, as a foreign minister, took responsibility of improving India-Pakistan ties", ANI quoted him as saying. He gave the go-ahead for underground nuclear tests in 1998 believing nuclear weapons would be deterrent against China and Pakistan.
After 11 weeks and more than 1000 deaths, Pakistan ordered the fighters to withdraw.
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Vajpayee was one of the few leaders of the BJP to express anguish when hundreds of Muslims were killed rioting in 2002 in the western state of Gujarat.
More than 1,100 people, nearly all of them Muslim, were killed in the riots, which began after a train fire killed 60 Hindu pilgrims. "We knew him also as a poet, a man of knowledge and a true friend of our country, where he is well-known as one of the architects of our long-lasting and time-tested privileged strategic partnership", Kudashev said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo extended his condolences in a statement praising Vajpayee's contributions to India and to the development of bilateral relations.
The sudden turn sparked a flurry of visits from top dignitaries, including Modi, who credited Vajpayee with laying the foundations for the meteoric rise of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that rules India today.
Pay your tributes to Atal Bihari Vajpayee here. A funeral and cremation are set for Friday, local media reported.