"A scientist and statesman, Kalam rose from humble beginnings to become one of India's most accomplished leaders, earning esteem at home and abroad," he said in a statement on Tuesday. Extending his "deepest condolences to the people of India" on behalf of the American people, Obama noted Kalam's "tenure as India's 11th president witnessed unprecedented growth in US-India ties".

"An advocate for stronger US-India relations, Kalam worked to deepen our space cooperation, forging links with NASA during a 1962 visit to the United States," he said. "Suitably named the People's President, his humility and dedication to public service served as an inspiration to millions of Indians and admirers around the world”, he added.

Meanwhile, the US media highlighted his role in advancing India's nuclear, space and missile programmes. The influential New York Times in an obit said Kalam's "role in advancing India's nuclear programmes made him one of his country's most beloved figures".

"Kalam's celebrity could be traced to 1998, when India detonated five nuclear devices in the northwestern desert, to widespread international condemnation," it said.

"Described at the time as an 'impish, shaggy-haired bachelor' of 66, he was one of the most exuberant boosters of the country's nuclear programme," the Times said.



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