Singapore leaders convey condolences on death of former Indian president Pranab Mukherjee

People pray in front of a painting of India's former president Pranab Mukherjee in Kolkata, India, on Sept 1, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

Leaders of Singapore on Tuesday (Sept 1) expressed their condolences to their Indian counterparts and the family of the South Asian nation's former president Pranab Mukherjee who died this week.

In a letter to Indian President Ram Nath Kovind, President Halimah Yacob exalted Mr Mukherjee for his distinctive contribution to India in his years of serving the country.

"India has lost one of her finest sons," Madam Halimah wrote.

"As India's 13th President from 2012 to 2017, Shri Mukherjee was down-to-earth and served with humility.

"His unwavering commitment to improve the lives of the Indian people will serve as a lasting beacon of inspiration to many," she added.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called the late president "a towering leader with a heart for the common man" and said he had personally known him for many years.

"Shri Mukherjee was familiar to all of us in South-east Asia, particularly because as External Affairs Minister in the mid-1990s, he championed India's 'Look East' policy," PM Lee said in his condolence letter to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.

"Under his leadership, India took significant steps to elevate ties with Asean, including to become a full Dialogue Partner in 1996."

Of Mr Mukherjee, whom he last met in New Delhi in 2016, Mr Lee said: "He leaves behind a shining legacy of serving others, building consensus and rising above party politics. In today's world, these precious traits will be especially missed."

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong condoled with Mr Mukherjee's son, Mr Abhijit Mukherjee, and said he remembered the late leader "as a stalwart leader and an exemplary diplomat".

"During our conversations, I was always struck by his political astuteness, sharp insights and unwavering dedication to India," Mr Goh described in his letter to the younger Mukherjee.

"His ability to forge consensus on difficult issues bears testament to the deep respect that he commanded across the political aisle as well as his talent in unifying people. It is my hope that your father's legacy will continue to guide and inspire future generations of Indians."

Mr Mukherjee, who was finance minister before his rise to presidency, died on Monday at the age of 84 at a New Delhi hospital where he was being treated for lung infection.

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