India’s former external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, above, was waiting a lifetime to see Jammu & Kashmir being freed from shackles and joining the mainstream.
Soon after Parliament passed the landmark resolution on Tuesday night removing the special status for Jammu & Kashmir to usher in development, Swaraj tweeted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulating him.
Hours later, she died after a cardiac arrest at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. She was 67.
Swaraj was cremated with full state honours in Delhi on Wednesday. Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, who moved the resolution on Jammu & Kashmir, attended her cremation.
Swaraj’s mentor LK Advani, vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, whom she always addressed as her brother, were among other leaders who bid her farewell.
Role model for women leaders
Shah described Swaraj as a bright star in India’s political firmament who made the country proud globally during her tenure as foreign minister between 2014 and 2019.
Advani, 91, remembered how she used to bring his favourite chocolate cake to him on his birthdays without fail.
Calling her a role model for women leaders, Advani said he was often amazed by her ability to recall events and present them coherently and eloquently.
Azad said Swaraj was like a sister to him adding that she maintained cordial relations with leaders of other parties and did a wonderful job as foreign minister.
Her role in resolving the 2017 Doklam standoff between Indian and Chinese forces will long be remembered.
Swaraj helped people in distress with her quick response through social media.
She was such a warm person that people did not hesitate to seek her help when in trouble.
A baby’s heart beats for her
In 2017, Swaraj promised medical treatment for a four-month-old Pakistani baby, Rohaan, suffering from a heart condition.
She cleared visa for Rohaan and his family. After a five-hour surgery, doctors in a Delhi hospital corrected the boy’s life-threatening heart condition. While thanking Swaraj, Rohaan’s father said the baby’s heart beats for her.
In the same year, she took up the case of an Indian Catholic priest, Father Tom Uzhunnalil, who was abducted in Yemen, with the deputy prime minister of that country and requested him to secure the release. The priest was later freed with Oman also playing a role in his release.
The timely intervention by Swaraj led to the rescue of a group of Indian nurses who were held captive by Islamic State terrorists in strife-torn Iraq in 2014.
In March this year, an Indian man in Malaysia sought Swaraj’s help to get back his mentally ill friend from India. His tweet had grammatical errors but Swaraj ignored them and wrote to him that after becoming foreign minister, she has “learnt to follow English of all accent and grammar.”
She soon made arrangements to send back the petitioner’s friend to Malaysia.
When an Indian woman living in Canada expressed her wish to travel to Patiala for her father’s last rites, Swaraj immediately requested the Indian High Commission in Ottawa to facilitate her visit.
Swaraj could have saved more lives and helped more people in distress. But she opted out of the 2019 general elections due to health issues.
UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa described Swaraj as an extraordinary woman and leader who devoted her life to public service.