PHOTO: Schoolchildren hold candles and portraits of former South African President Nelson Mandela during a prayer ceremony at a school in the
western Indian city of Ahmedabad December 6, 2013. Image by: AMIT DAVE / REUTERS
India on Friday declared five days of national
mourning for South Africa’s anti-apartheid hero Nelson Mandela who was
hailed as a “true Gandhian” and a “great friend” by the country’s leaders.
The Indian flag will be flown at half mast across the country for five days and “there will be no official entertainment”, a government statement said after a special meeting of the cabinet in New Delhi.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the country regarded Mandela as a “true Gandhian in spirit and ideal”.
“In a world marked by division, his was an example of working for reconciliation and harmony and we are not likely to see another of his kind for a long time to come,” Singh told a conference in televised remarks.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee called Mandela “a statesman, world leader and icon of inspiration of humanity”.
“He was a great friend of India and his contribution for strengthening the close ties between our two countries will be always remembered,” he said.
Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi had his political baptism in South Africa after arriving there in 1893, with his experience of racism in the country shaping his future political activism back home.
India was also the first country to sever trade relations with the apartheid regime in Pretoria back in the 1940s.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, said the world had “lost a beam of light” with Mandela’s death.
“Mandela could have become president for life but (he) wanted to be an agent of change and that is what he wanted to be remembered for,” he told India’s CNN-IBN news network.
Mandela died late Thursday at his Johannesburg home after a long battle against lung infection.