Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee Dies

Vajpayee's condition worsens, put on life-support system: AIIMS..

The United States on Thursday joined the world in paying tributes to late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, saying he was among those who "recognized early that India and the U.S. could develop a partnership" for the benefit of the region and the world. In 2009, he had suffered a stroke, which weakened his cognitive abilities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the mourners who walked under a hot sun behind a flower-decked gun carriage carrying Vajpayee's body to a cremation ground on the banks of the Yamuna river.

He was the prime minister who ordered nuclear tests in 1998, stoking fears of atomic war between India and Pakistan.

His peace efforts began with a groundbreaking bus ride to Lahore, Pakistan, in February 1999, where he met with then-Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

He first became the prime minister of India for only 16 days - May 16-31, 1996 - and was re-elected PM in March 1998, where he remained in office until May 13, 2004.

Vajpayee's visit to the U.S. in September 2000 was a landmark one in many ways. From there it would be taken to the BJP headquarters tomorrow, where people would be able to pay their last respects.

One of India's longest-serving lawmakers, Vajpayee was elected nine times to the powerful Lok Sabha, or lower house of Parliament.

Media reports say Foreign Ministers of other neighbouring countries, including Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are also expected to arrive to pay their respects to the late BJP leader.

Prime minister-in-waiting Imran Khan Thursday extended condolences over the demise of Vajpayee.

The former Prime Minister praised the then Leader of Opposition in 2003, for honouring the rites of consensus on foreign policy and observing the rules of fair play. That changed within a month of Vajpayee returning to the prime minister's post in 1998, when he approved a series of nuclear weapons tests that shocked the world and pushed Islamabad to launch its own tests.

"It was Atal Ji's exemplary leadership that set the foundations for a strong, prosperous and inclusive India in the 21st century", Mr Modi said in a tweet.

Vajpayee's public response to the riots reflected his many contradictions. The ruling dispensation has declared seven days of state mourning. In a statement issued on Thursday, the American Embassy said that the United States grieved with India on the loss of the former Prime Minister.

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