Lee a committed karma yogi, says Modi; joins world leaders in tribute

Singapore/New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined many world leaders at the funeral of Singapore founder and first prime minister Lee Kuan Yew who he described as a "committed karma yogi" and among the "tallest leaders of our times".

PM Narendra Modi
PM Narendra Modi

In India, as a tribute to Singapore's founding father, the government observed a day's national mourning and the national flag was flown at half-mast at all government offices and no official entertainment was held.

In a book of condolence at the funeral in Singapore, Modi wrote that the death of Lee was "not the passing of an individual, but indeed, of an era" and that he was an inspiration to him.

"He was a torch-bearer of hope, not just for Singapore, but for all of Asia," Modi added.

"Today, the flame is no more, but this was a torch that lit the lamp of hope in many new nations. As long as these lamps flicker, he will continue to inspire, eternally.

"I bow to this committed karma yogi, this great man. On behalf of all Indians, I pay homage to him."

In his address to the media, Modi said the passing away of Lee marks the end of an era. "He was among the tallest leaders of our times."

"Singapore's transformation in one generation is a tribute to his leadership. He inspired not just Southeast Asia, but all of Asia, to believe in its own destiny. He was a global thinker, who saw things ahead of others. He was an advocate of economic progress, but also made tireless efforts to advance peace and stability in our region.

"In India, we deeply valued his friendship and his support for India's economic progress and global role. He believed in India's potential more than many of us did," he said.

Modi described India's relations with Singapore as "one of our strongest relationships in the world" and the city-state as "a key pillar of India's Act East Policy".

"Personally, he was a source of inspiration for me. His achievements and thoughts give me confidence in the possibility of India's own transformation. I bring here today the condolences and prayers of the people of India," he said.

Ahead of the funeral, which started at 12.30 p.m. local time amid rain, Modi held a one-on-one with Singapore Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam.

He said India and Singapore should work together more closely, in tune with the thinking of Lee.

He said Lee's drive for public housing and cleanliness were models for India.

The Singapore deputy prime minister appreciated Modi efforts towards cooperative competitive federalism.

Modi also met Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who said Singapore appreciates India's gestures during its hour of grief.

Modi also held a one-on-one with Israeli President Reuvin Rivlin. Both leaders discussed ways to further enhance cooperation between the two countries.

On the sidelines, Modi met former US president Bill Clinton, Canada's Governor General David Johnston, and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Lee died at the age of 91 on Monday after a long battle with pneumonia.

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