Thursday, June 13, 2024

Remembering Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, December 25, 1924 – August 16, 2018)

Washington, DC – Long ago in the steel city of Jamshedpur, I came to know Atal Bihari Vajpayee. My mother Raminder Kaur, who was pursuing her third Masters (MA) degree from Ranchi University, was visiting one of her professors, Professor Srivastava.

Professor Srivastava and Vajpayee were buddies and from there I came to know of Vajpayee who was a rising star in the political arena. As a kid I was impressed with his soft-spoken manners, and growing up I was I was blown away with his oratory skills when I heard his speeches.

Over the years, I was exposed to a lot of public and private information about Vajpayee, who among his friends was an enigma and highly respected for his principles. Some envied him for his no-nonsense way of life.

Vajpayee lived a full life and left for his heavenly abode – leaving behind more questions than answers in his personal life, but amazing clarity in his pragmatic political thinking. His unflinching dedication to nation building will be hard to replace.

Vajpayee became the first Indian leader to start leaning towards the United States instead of staying in the Nehruvian era of Soviet ties. In 2000, Vajpayee, as the Indian Prime Minister, called his country and the United States “natural allies.”

A joint statement on March 21, 2000 from President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee stands witness to an era of a fresh start on US-India ties.

In its opening sentence the statement says, “At the dawn of a new century, President Clinton and Prime Minister Vajpayee resolve to create a closer and qualitatively new relationship between the United States and India.”

The statement concludes with: “For India and the United States, this is a day of new beginnings. We have before us for the first time in 50 years the possibility to realize the full potential of our relationship. We will work to seize that chance, for our benefit and all those with whom we share this increasingly interdependent world.”

The statement signed by William Jefferson Clinton, President of the United States of America, and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister of India, will stand testimony to a vision fostered by two global leaders.

Vajpayee lives on in the hearts and minds of people and the pages of history will be talking of his humble beginnings, soft-spoken manners, mesmerizing oratory skills, dedication to nation-building and a silent passage into the Beyond.

Queen Elizabeth II shaking hands with Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the banquet hosted by President of India Giani Zail Singh, 17 November, 1983. (https://twitter.com/RBArchive, GODL-India <https://data.gov.in/sites/default/files/Gazette_Notification_OGDL.pdf>, via Wikimedia Commons)
President George W. Bush welcomes Prime Minister Vajpayee of India to the Oval Office, Friday, November 9, 2001. (White House photo by Eric Draper, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)
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Tejinder Singh

Tejinder Singh was the Founder and Editor of India America Today, and is the inspiration for Global Strat View.

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