NEW DELHI:Remembering former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his 96th birth anniversary, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar said that he was a titan of his times who left an indelible stamp on many of India’s policies.

The EAM announced the commencement of an annual memorial lecture on foreign policy dedicated to the former Prime Minister. Speaking at the maiden Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Lecture, Jaishankar said, “Looking back at Atalji’s life and legacy, there is no question that he was the transformational leader when it came to Indian foreign policy. He had an intuitive understanding that the post-Cold War world required India to drastically rework its relationships and interests. This vision led to a new beginning with the United States that has since been developed by successive Governments on both sides.”

He said that only someone with Vajpayee’s “enormous self-assurance” could, in the early days, have visualised how “natural” this [India-US] partnership would become.

Vajpayee’s vision of India-US cooperation has been advanced, particularly in recent years, by the leadership and commitment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he added.

Jaishankar also credited the former Prime Minister for the country’s “steady” relationship with Russia and radiating goodwill and friendship with the neighbouring nations.

“Atalji’s 1998 exercise of the nuclear option will remain his most enduring contribution. If our Russia relationship remains steady to this day, this owes partly to his endeavours. Our principled approach of engaging China on the basis of mutual respect and mutual sensitivity also reflects his thinking. In the neighbourhood, Atalji radiated goodwill and friendship, while being clear that terrorism and trust could not coexist,” he said.

Vajpayee could “finesse difficult issues” while warmly reaching out across regions and continents, he said, pointing to the country’s relations with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and with nations across Europe, Africa, and Latin America.

“Atalji could finesse difficult issues – as I discovered in Japan – while warmly reaching out across regions and continents. He visibly strengthened our ties with the ASEAN, and those with Europe, Africa, and Latin America. His visits to the UN always generated their own buzz. And most notably, he embraced the Indian diaspora in a way that had no parallel till then,” the EAM added.

The Atal Bihari Vajpayee Memorial Annual Lecture on foreign policy was delivered by Nisha Desai Biswal, President of the US-India Business Council and former assistant secretary for South Asia in the US state department.

India marked the 96th birth anniversary of Vajpayee, who died in 2018, on Friday.