Singapore: Sixty-one years after Jawaharlal Nehru last visited this city-state, Singapore commemorated for posterity India`s first prime minister as a "friend to our shores" and a "visionary".
With Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiling a bronze bust of Nehru at the Asian Civilization Museum green on the picturesque banks of the Singapore River Sunday along with Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, it was further affirmation of a historic connect that also includes Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose who spent some years here.
The bust has a marker with a flower and Nehru`s signature. The event was to take place in the open but was moved inside following sudden rains.
Singapore`s National Heritage Board has also marked the site of the INA Memorial, the foundation stone of which was laid by Bose in July 1945 and subsequently destroyed by Lord Louis Mountbatten who was then the head of the Southeast Asia Command.
In 1995, that spot at what is now the Esplanade Park was restored by the Heritage Board.
Not too far away from that is where Nehru`s bust, sculpted by India`s Biman Bihari Das, and marker, now stands.
"Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was a visionary leader in Asia and the world," Goh said, recalling that New Delhi had honoured him with the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding seven years ago.
"In my acceptance speech, I paid tribute to Panditji`s contribution to the birth of an independent and modern Asia. "The unveiling of Nehru`s marker today is an extension of that tribute.
"It also underscores the close relations between India and Singapore, a relationship that Nehru had put in place," he added.
Manmohan Singh said at the unveiling of the bust: "Jawaharlal Nehru was prescient when he said in 1946 that Singapore will become the city where Asian unity is forged. We are witnessing such unity being forged."
"In honouring Pandit Nehru today, you honour India and all the values that India stands for -- secularism, democracy, freedom and the rule of law. These are the values that continue to unite our two nations today," he said.
"In celebrating our path, the enhanced understanding of each other`s cultures inspire the younger generation and better prepare ourselves for the future," he added.
According to Ong Yey Huat, chairperson of the National Heritage Board, each of Nehru`s three visits "contributed to the growing friendship between our two countries".
So far, Singapore has "marked" only four personalities - Polish English writer Joseph Conrad, father of modern Vietnam Ho Chi Minh, Filipino revolutionary leader Jose Rizal and Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.
Nehru first visited Singapore in May 1937 with daughter Indira as part of a pan-Malayan tour; then in March 1946, before India`s independence, he came at the invitation of Mountbatten; his last visit was in June 1950 when he was prime minister.
Indira accompanied him on this visit too. He laid the foundation stone of the Singapore Indian Association and the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Hall.
"Singapore will become the place where Asian unity is forged. In the future, the peoples of Asia must hold together for their own good as well as the good and freedom of the world," he had said here in 1946 after visiting the INA memorial.
The words were prophetic and resonate even today.
On May 30, 1964, three days after Nehru died in New Delhi, thousands gathered to mourn his death at Jalan Besar Stadium, where he had called for peace and conciliation in a region where decolonisation was in progress.
Then prime minister Lee Kuan Yew honoured the memory of a "staunch friend" who had led India to freedom and won the hearts of millions to his vision of harmony and justice in a post-colonial world.
Over five decades later, Singaporeans honoured the man again.