In a gesture that underscores India’s robust multilayered relations with Singapore, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the funeral of the city-state’s first Prime Minister and founding father Lee Kuan Yew, the iconic leader who put a non-descript muddy island into an economic dynamo and commanded respect across the spectrum.
Mr Modi will attend the funeral on March 29, according to the Ministry of the External Affairs.
Lee, 91, who was an admirer of India and enjoyed close relations with generations of Indian leaders, died of severe pneumonia on March 23.
Mr Modi, a development-focused prime minister, saw a strong connect with Singapore’s leader-statesman and regards Singapore as a key partner in his government’s planned mission to build 100 smart cities in India. He was rich in praise of the deceased leader, who described him as “a far-sighted statesman and a lion among leaders, Lee Kuan Yew’s life teaches valuable lessons to everyone. News of his demise is saddening.”
“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.”
Although Mr Lee was disappointed with India as he viewed the country had ‘real potential’ to grow but it was heading to the wrong way, the socialist way, he had had great admiration for India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, whom he saw as “demagogue who chose not to become a dictator.”
In later years, he met nearly every Indian Prime Minister, particularly Narasimha Rao, and Manmohan Singh, whom he met on several occasions in New Delhi and Singapore, and continued to push India for the need of “look east”. Lee played a pivotal role in India’s accelerated engagement with ASEAN and its Look East policy, which has morphed into Act East policy under Mr Modi’s watch.
Long ago before his demise, Mr. Lee called India “a nation of unfulfilled greatness.” “Indians will go at a tempo which is decided by their constitution, by their ethnic mix, by their voting patterns, and the resulting coalition governments, which makes for very difficult decision-making,” he admitted.