Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former Indian prime minister who passed away on Aug. 16, was as respected globally as he was in India.
His first stint in the government was as the external affairs minister in the late 1970s. During this time, he took several initiatives to mend fences with China and Pakistan, India’s traditional rivals.
As prime minister in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he gave a whole new direction to the otherwise sclerotic India-US ties—a US president visited India for the first time in 22 years—even as he deepened the decades-old bond with Russia. By officially recognising Tibet as part of China, Vajpayee removed a major thorn in Sino-India relations and pushed ahead with his earlier China policy. Then there were his many and well-known peace initiatives with India’s nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan.
Not surprisingly, condolences for the departed leader have poured in from abroad:
US embassy to India:
The United States grieves with India on the loss of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He will be remembered for his immense contribution in bolstering US-India relations. During his tenure, prime minister Vajpayee advocated for a robust partnership with the United States, referring to us as “natural allies.” The US mission in India extends our deepest condolences to the family of former prime minister Vajpayee and the citizens of India
Dominic Asquith, British high commissioner to India:
We are saddened by the passing of former PM of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee. We will remember him as one of India’s greatest leaders. Shri Vajpayee was much respected in the UK as a statesman par excellence.
We have learnt with sadness the passing away of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former prime minister of India, who was undergoing treatment in a hospital in New Delhi. He was a renowned statesman who contributed to bringing a change in Indo-Pak relations and remained key supporter of SAARC and regional cooperation for development. Pakistan government and people extend their heartfelt condolences to his family and to government and people of India.
Imran Khan, chief of Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party and the country’s incoming prime minister:
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a known and respected political figure of the subcontinent. Vajpayee’s efforts to improve Indo-Pak ties will always be remembered. As the foreign minister, Vajpayee sahab took the responsibility of improving India-Pakistan ties. As prime minister, Vajpayee sahab took his initiative and agenda further ahead of improving Indo-Pak ties. With the demise of Vajpayee sahab, south Asian politics now has a big political vacuum. There can be political differences, but both sides of the border want peace. By establishing peace is how we can really honour the legacy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. In this moment of grief following the demise of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, I stand with the people of India.
Mushahid Hussain Syed, Pakistan senator from the Islamabad Capital Territory:
Passing away of India’s greatest statesman, ex-PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, an irreparable loss as he was icon of peace who had a Nixonian vision to reach out for building bridges with Pakistan; honoured to serve as minister in waiting during his famous bus journey to Lahore in 1999. While other Indian leaders have talked of peace, only PM Vajpayee had the vision, will, and moral courage to “walk the talk”; he realised post-1998 nuclear tests that Pakistan and India needed a fresh start based on new ground realities, including paying homage at the Minar-e-Pakistan.
Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh prime minister:
Deeply shocked at sad demise of former PM of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee, one of the most famous sons of India. He will be remembered for contributing towards good governance and for highlighting issues affecting the common people of India as well as for regional peace and prosperity. His tireless work for the welfare of the people of India will inspire future generations of leaders. An excellent orator and a poet Shri Vajpayee took significant strides towards acceleration of inclusive economic growth in India.
Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee was our great friend and highly respected in Bangladesh. As a token of recognition for his invaluable contribution to our Liberation War in 1971, Bangladesh government conferred on him the Bangladesh Liberation War Honour. Today is certainly a day of great sadness for all of us in Bangladesh. On behalf of the government and the people of Bangladesh and on my own behalf, I express our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the government and the mourning people of India, and to the members of the bereaved family. We pray for the eternal peace of his soul.
Nikolay Kudashev, Russia’s ambassador to India:
We mourn the death of H E Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a great statesman. His name became an integral part of a whole era in Indian politics. His devoted service to the nation can hardly be overestimated. Mr Vajpayee enjoyed due respect in India and globally.
We knew him also as a poet, a man of knowledge and a true friend of our country, where he is well-known as one of the architects of our long-lasting and time-tested privileged strategic partnership.