5:28 am - Sunday November 8, 2015

Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew wanted India in leadership role in SE Asia

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SINGAPORE: Singapore’s former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, who personally knew many Indian leaders, wanted India to take a leadership role in South East Asia.

Lee, who died this week at the age of 91, personally knew many Indian leaders and most of its prime ministers, from Jawaharlal Nehru to Manmohan Singh, The Straits Times reported, reflecting on his relations with India.

During one of his meeting with Lee, Singh had sought his advice on how to handle the Chinese leadership, the report said.

As Prime Minister of independent Singapore, Lee visited India six times, during one of which he delivered Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Lecture in New Delhi.

He first visited India in 1959 for a conference of the International Commission of Jurists.

In later years, he had become somewhat of a mentor to various leaders and hosted Rahul Gandhi, the grandson of Nehru, for a week in Singapore several years ago.

“Lee Kuan Yew was candid about India in his own characteristic way, and hoped we could rise to our real potential,” the daily quoted Tarun Vijay, ruling BJP’s Member of Parliament, as saying.

“Some of his views regarding our nationhood might be disagreed with but his heart was in India, and he genuinely wanted us to achieve our real potential,” Vijay said.

Lee had called India a “nation of unfulfilled greatness” with its potential “lain fallow, under-used”.

India’s complex caste system was an “enemy of meritocracy” and the potential of the country was bogged down by a bureaucracy “wrapped in a colonial mindset”, he had said.

In one interview, Lee said India was “not one country” but “32 separate nations”.

He was once asked if he could replicate Singapore’s success in India. He had laughed out loud, but his answer was clear: No.

“No Single person can change India. If you compare with China, 90 per cent speak one language. It is a much easier country to lead than India. India consists of many different nation groups and dialects,” he had said.

“Lee Kuan Yew did have a high regard for India and did reach out to India. I think, towards the end, he had become quite critical,” the report quoted Sanjay Baru, who served as media advisor to former Prime Minister Singh, as saying.

“He (Lee) will be remembered as the greatest architect of Singapore. It is very impressive what he has done, though he has been accused of ruling with an iron fist. But he was able to infuse an identity of Singapore in spite of a very complex ethnic diversity,” said strategic affairs analyst C Uday Bhaskar.

Lee died on March 23 at age 91. A state funeral service will be attended by global leaders on Sunday.

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