India’s Vajpayee, who set off nuke race and peace, has died

India’s Kerala state on high alert after floods kill dozens

Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina described Mr. Vajpayee as one of the "most famous sons of India" and said, "Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee was our great friend and highly respected in Bangladesh".

The former Prime Minister was admitted to the hospital on June 11 with a kidney tract infection, urinary tract infection, low urine output and chest congestion.

Vajpayee suffered a stroke in 2009 and retreated from public view.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a stream of political leaders cutting across party lines and Union ministers visited the hospital on Thursday.

He was a key figure in the development of India's nuclear programme, ordering weapons tests in 1998, which stoked fears of an atomic war with neighouring Pakistan, which also tested a nuclear device in response. He sparked an arms race with Pakistan, but later launched peace talks and a cross-border bus service between Lahore and Delhi.

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee served as Prime Minister of India for three terms that began in 1996, 1998 and 1999. A Hindu nationalist, he helped found the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, but was considered a moderate compared with other more hard-line BJP leaders. From there it would be taken to the BJP headquarters tomorrow, where people would be able to pay their last respects. He gave the go-ahead for underground nuclear tests in 1998 believing nuclear weapons would be deterrent against China and Pakistan.

In the days after the pogrom, Vajpayee said he could not understand how Hindus could burn women and children alive, sadly asking a group of Muslim survivors: "Have we lost our way so much that we cease to be humans?"

Modi's government presented Vajpayee as an icon, seeking inspiration from his political career and cashing in on his stature and popularity as a statesman acceptable across political divides. "His futuristic policies across various sectors touched the lives of each and every citizen of India", Modi tweeted Thursday. For Jammu and Kashmir, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had said -insaniyat (humanity), Kashmiriyat (eclectic Kashmiri culture), jamhooriyat (democracy). His maiden speech in Parliament so impressed his peers and colleagues that the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru introduced Vajpayee to a visiting foreign dignitary thus: "This young man one day will become the country's prime minister". Atal Bihari Vajpayee, 93, was on life support system at the country's premier health institute where he was undergoing treatment for the last nine weeks.

In 2015, the government honored Vajpayee with the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, while his December 25 birthday was declared "Good Governance Day" in a tribute to his leadership. His funeral is to be held Friday afternoon.

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