Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

India declares day of mourning

India announced a day of national mourning for Mr Lee Kuan Yew in an unprecedented gesture of appreciation for his life and work.

The Indian flag will be lowered to half-mast tomorrow across the country and there will be no official entertainment on the day, New Delhi announced yesterday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepared to travel to Singapore for the state funeral.

"We deeply valued his conviction in India's role in Asia's future and to the success of India's 'Look East' policy," said External Affairs Ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.

Analysts say it is unusual for India to honour a person who had retired from national leadership for nearly a quarter-century. The last time India accorded a foreign leader this recognition was in January, when Saudi king Abdullah bin Abdulaziz passed away.

"This is a special gesture. The Saudi king was in power, Lee Kuan Yew was not," said Professor S.D. Muni, a South Asia expert. "This is a compliment to Singapore's contribution in promoting ties between India and the Asia-Pacific."

People familiar with Indian government thinking said India was signalling its recognition of Mr Lee's ties with its leadership, starting from pre-independence days.

Mr Lee had known India's founding prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi, Mrs Gandhi's son Rajiv, who succeeded her as prime minister, and Rajiv's son Rahul Gandhi, currently vice-president of the Congress Party. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh also sought his counsel on global issues.

"This is as much in recognition of his contribution to wider Asia as for the future of India-Singapore ties," said a senior official.

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Additional reporting by Nirmala Ganapathy