Indian leaders hail Mandela as "icon of inspiration", "giant among men"

Mr Nelson Mandela sits infront of a painting depicting in New-Delhi, Oct 15, 1990. The death of Mr Mandela has led to an outpouring of grief in India where his fight against aparthied reminded people of Mr Mahatma Gandhi's fight for independence from
Mr Nelson Mandela sits infront of a painting depicting in New-Delhi, Oct 15, 1990. The death of Mr Mandela has led to an outpouring of grief in India where his fight against aparthied reminded people of Mr Mahatma Gandhi's fight for independence from the British. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI - The death of Mr Nelson Mandela has led to an outpouring of grief in India where his fight against apartheid reminded people of Mr Mahatma Gandhi's fight for independence from the British.

President Pranab Mukherjee called Mr Mandela an "icon of inspiration for humanity". 

"I bow down to pay my respect and homage to this great soul,'' he said.

 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also paid tribute to Mr Mandela. "A giant among men has passed away... He was a true Gandhian,'' he said.

"His life and work will remain a source of eternal inspiration for generations to come. I join all those who are praying for his soul.''

Mr Mandela, a follower of Mr Gandhi, first visited India in 1990, months after he was released from decades of incarceration.

During his first visit to India in 1990, he accepted the country's highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna.

Mr Mandela often referred to Mr Gandhi as being an important part of South Africa's history in reference to the latter's years in the country working as a lawyer.

Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi also offered his condolence.

"The world has lost an apostle of peace and non-violence who redefined the journey of his nation for the good of humankind,'' said Mr Modi.

gnirmala@sph.com.sg