Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday lauded Singapore’s founder and first premier Lee Kuan Yew as a “global thinker”, and said India deeply valued his friendship and his support for its economic progress.
Modi, who arrived in the morning to attend the State Funeral Services of Lee, described the former Singapore PM as “among the tallest leaders of our times”.
91-year-old Lee died of severe pneumonia on March 23. Some 100,000 Singaporeans lined along a 15-km route through the city to catch a glimpse of the funeral cortege in pouring rain. They chanted the late leader’s name, took photos with smartphones, and waved Singapore’s red-and-white flag.
Singapore’s transformation in one generation was a tribute to Lee’s leadership, Modi said, adding that his death marks the end of an era. “He inspired not just Southeast Asia, but all of Asia, to believe in its own destiny,” he said.
“In the 50th anniversary year of Singapore’s independence, I am sure that he (Lee) left satisfied with Singapore’s achievements and confident about its future,” the PM said.
He underlined that India’s relationship with Singapore was “one of our strongest relationships” in the world. “India’s integration with Southeast Asia and beyond is growing. Singapore is a key pillar of India’s Act East Policy,” he said.
Modi held separate meetings with Singapore’s Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shamugaratnam, at which he conveyed his condolences to Singapore’s leaders and people.
“I am visiting Singapore at a sad moment,” Modi said. “He (Lee) 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.
“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.”
Modi, who had visited Singapore as the chief minister of Gujarat in October 2006, said Lee had been a source of inspiration for him. “His achievements and thoughts give me confidence in the possibility of India’s own transformation,” Modi said. “The people of India share this nation’s grief… I bring here today the condolences and prayers of the people of India.”
Several other world leaders including former US President Bill Clinton, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Malaysian King Abdul Halim Shah participated in Lee funeral.
The three-hour service ended with the singing of the Malay-language national anthem “Majulah Singapura”. Sirens were blown for a minute of silence to pay respects to Lee as the last post was played by a military bugler.
Lee’s remains were later driven to a private cremation service. In a note to his children in 2011, one year after the death of his wife of 63 years Kwa Geok Choo, Lee had said that “for reasons of sentiment, I would like part of my ashes to be mixed up with Mama’s, and both her ashes and mine put side by side in the columbarium”.