Describing him as one of the most “exuberant boosters” of India’s nuclear capabilities, the US media today highlighted the contribution of ‘missile man’ A P J Abdul Kalam to the country’s atomic and space programme.
Kalam, who would have turned 84 in October died after suffering a massive cardiac arrest during a lecture at the IIM Shillong yesterday, plunging his country into overwhelming grief.
“He was one of the most exuberant boosters of the country’s nuclear program,” The New York Times wrote in a rare obituary for Kalam.
“He used the spotlight to urge India to build up its military strength and to free itself from the threat of domination by outside forces,” the daily said.
The Times said that Kalam spent little time outside India.
“For him, it was a point of pride that India had developed its bomb without much help from foreign powers. And he described himself as thoroughly Indian,” it said.
Kalam has been credited with helping develop his country’s first space satellites. In the 1980s, he helped design the nuclear-capable ‘Prithvi’ and ‘Agni’ ballistic missiles, The Washington Post said.
“He played a crucial role when India tested its nuclear weapons in 1998. The test resulted in sanctions against the country but helped elevate Mr Kalam to the status of folk hero in his country,” the Post said in its obituary.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Kalam, who was born into a poor Muslim family in Tamil Nadu, was at the forefront of the country’s efforts to develop a space programme and a strong advocate for India’s self-reliance in defence technologies.
“He encouraged the development of India’s first indigenous satellite launch vehicle that brought the country into an elite club of space-faring nations and guided India’s missile-development programme,” the daily said.
“Dr. Kalam also played a key role in boosting India’s nuclear capabilities, leading to nuclear tests in 1998, a technological achievement seen as pivotal in asserting the country’s place in global politics,” the WSJ said.
“He was the first scientist to hold the office, and was widely viewed as an apolitical figure,” the CNN said.