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Posted at: Aug 17, 2018, 4:22 PM; last updated: Aug 17, 2018, 9:44 PM (IST)

Spirit of SAARC at Vajpayee’s cremation

Spirit of SAARC at Vajpayee’s cremation
King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck pays last respects to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee at Smriti Sthal. ANI

Smita Sharma
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 17

Even though the South Asian Association of Regional Cooperation summit is in a limbo, the South Asian grouping solidarity was at display on Friday as India bid goodbye to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

With the exception of Maldives, leaders and representatives from seven SAARC member states were present in Delhi for Vajpayee’s final rites. King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk of Bhutan, former Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai, Foreign Minister of Nepal Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali, Acting Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka Lakshman Kiriella, and Former Afghan Foreign Minister Dr. Spantav are present for Vajpayee’s cremation. 

Pakistan, which awaits the swearing in ceremony of its prime minister-elect Imran Khan on Saturday, also sent delegation to the farewell ceremony of an Indian leader who travelled to Islamabad for the 12th SAARC summit in January of 2004, setting aside the bitter memories of Kargil that followed his historic visit to Lahore in 1999.

The Pakistani delegation included Acting Information and Law Minister Syed Ali Zafar, Dr Fareha Bugti, Director India at MoFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs), Danyal Gillani , Director  Law and Information Ministry and Dr. Mohd Faisal, DG South Asia, SAARC and MoFA spokesperson.

“In his demise, India and the world lost a towering political figure and Nepal a true friend and well-wisher,” wrote Nepalese Prime Minster KP Sharma Oli in his letter offering condolence to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama also wrote to Vajpayee’s foster daughter, Namita Bhattacharya, to express his condolence and recalled his personal association with the leader, whom he met regularly while he was prime minister and even visited him after his term.

“His eloquent support of the Tibetan people began in the late 1950s. Since then, he regularly took Indian governments to task in parliament, prompting them to take a stronger stand on Tibet,” he wrote.

Messages continued to pour in from across the globe from Thailand to France, with US Secretary of State Pompeo underlining that Indo-US ties benefited from Vajpayee’s vision. 

“Standing before the United States Congress in 2000, he famously characterised US-India ties as a ‘natural partnership of shared endeavours’. He recognised early on that the United States and India, based on their shared democratic values, could develop a partnership that would contribute to the economic prosperity and security of the region and the world,” Pompeo said. 

Flags at several Missions in the national capital, including US, UK, and Singapore, were lowered to half-mast to pay tribute to the late leader. The Singapore High Commission postponed its National Day celebration reception scheduled for Friday to a later date.

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