Remembering Lee Kuan Yew

PM Modi calls Mr Lee Kuan Yew 'lion among leaders' as tributes pour in from India

NEW DELHI - Prime minister Narendra Modi has called Mr Lee Kuan Yew a "lion among leaders", as he led the tributes and condolences pouring in from all over India on the demise of Singapore's founding father.

"A far-sighted statesman and a lion among leaders, Mr Lee Kuan Yew's life teaches valuable lessons to everyone. News of his demise is saddening," tweeted Mr Modi, an admirer of Mr Lee. "In this hour of bereavement, our prayers are with Mr Lee Kuan Yew's family and the people of Singapore. May his soul rest in peace."

Tributes poured in from across India's political spectrum in a sign of the high respect the nation accorded to Mr Lee.

Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi in a condolence message highlighted the "warm" ties Mr Lee had with the Congress party. She called him the "builder of modern multi ethnic Singapore" and said he belonged to the league of Asian statesmen who successfully carried forward the task of nation building.

In the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, where Singapore is helping build a capital city, the state assembly passed a condolence resolution and observed two minutes of silence. "The world will poorer by the passing away of a visionary leader who created 'an oasis of First World amidst Third World' with his pragmatic outlook and hard work," said Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrabau Naidu in a separate condolence message.

Mr Lee has had a long association with India and is seen as the architect of the close ties the two countries currently enjoy. Mr Lee visited India a number of times in his capacity as prime minister, and has known Indian leaders across generations: From India's first Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru to current Congress leader Rahul Gandhi.

Speaking at the 37th Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial lecture in Delhi in 2005, Mr Lee described how he shared "intellectual and emotional roots" with Mr Nehru, also a freedom movement leader, because he too had "experienced subjugation and discrimination under the British Raj".

He was also an early supporter of India's long cherished but unfulfilled ambition of becoming a permanent member of the UN Security Council. 

Tributes to Mr Lee flowed in from different sections of Indian society on Twitter.

"Lee Kwan Yew: the world has lost a transformational statesman and Singapore has lost Father of their nation," tweeted leading corporate voice Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairman of Bangalore-based biotech firm Biocon Limited.

Editor and journalist Shekhar Gupta recalled when Mr Lee spoke on China to a group of Indian editors. "Asian statesman & builder of Singapore. Treasure the opportunity to listen to him give tutorial on China to a group of Indian editors," he tweeted.

Mr Lee also had a strong opinion on India. In his book 'From Third World to First', he gave three reasons why the world's largest democracy has not done better: central planning; the caste system; and "endless conflicts and wars with Pakistan."

"India is a nation of unfulfilled greatness. Its potential has lain fallow, underused," he had concluded.

He called former prime minister Indira Gandhi "the toughest woman prime minister I have met".

"She was feminine but there was nothing soft about her. She was a more determined and ruthless political leader than Margaret Thatcher, (Sri Lankan premier Sirimavo) Bandaranaike, or Benazir Bhutto," he was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying.

On India's people, Mr Lee said the country had many outstanding people in all fields of scholarship, but for a number of reasons it has allowed the high standards the British left them to be lowered. "There is less insistence now on meritocracy by examinations for entrance into top schools and universities, the professions, and the Indian Civil Service."