Former Indian prime minister Atal Vajpayee dies aged 93

The former leader ordered nuclear tests in 1998, stoking fears of an atomic war with Pakistan.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee (AP)
Atal Bihari Vajpayee (AP)

Former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has died after a prolonged illness at the age of 93.

Mr Vajpayee was a Hindu nationalist who in 1998 ordered nuclear weapons tests which stoked fears of an atomic war with rival Pakistan.

However, he later launched a ground-breaking peace process with Islamabad.

Mr Vajpayee launched a ground-breaking peace initiative with Pakistan (AP)

That was not the only way in which Mr Vajpayee seemed to be a political contradiction.

He was a moderate leader of an often-strident Hindu nationalist movement, and a lifelong poet who revered nature but who oversaw India’s growth into a swaggering regional economic power.

Mr Vajpayee’s supporters saw him as a skilled politician, while critics accused him and his party of stoking public fears of India’s large Muslim minority.

However, both sides agreed he was that rare thing in Indian politics: a man untainted by corruption scandals.

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