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Lee Kuan a towering figure in Asian history: Sonia

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

Congress President Sonia Gandhi today paid rich tributes to former Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, describing him as a "towering figure in Asian history" and an "esteemed and valued friend of India".

In a letter to Lee Kuan's father and Singapore's present Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the Congress President also referred to the "warm personal memories" of her meetings with Lee Kuan Yew in 2005 and 2007 when he had visited Delhi.

"I am deeply grieved to learn of the passing away of your beloved father. Lee Kuan Yew was a towering figure in Asian history, an abiding source of inspiration and influence throughout our continent.

"In his three decades as Prime Minister of Singapore, he gave his country a sense of proud nationhood and national identity based on a richly multi-cultural and meritocratic society," she said.

She noted that this philosophy, together with his emphasis on education and on transforming Singapore into a major manufacturing hub brought pride, prosperity and progress to the people of Singapore for whom Lee Kuan Yew became a "much-loved father figure".

"I have warm personal memories of my meetings with Yew, most recently when he was in Delhi in 2007 and when he delivered Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial lecture in 2005. He was a person of great personal warmth, whose wisdom and charisma touched all those who met him.

"And he was an esteemed and valued friend of India, who initiated many new areas of cooperation between Singapore and India. Yew's memory will always be honoured by the Congress party and by the people of India. We deeply mourn his loss. My sincere personal condolences," Gandhi said in the letter.

She said that Lee Kuan belonged to the league of Asian "statesmen who successfully carried forward the task of nation-building.

Lee, who was Singapore's first prime minister, died of severe pneumonia today.

First Published: Mon, March 23 2015. 20:42 IST