India mourns death of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela

India today mourned the death of anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, saying he was a

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"giant among men" and a "great friend of India" whose life and work will remain a source of inspiration for generations to come.

In his condolence message, President Pranab Mukherjee said, "President Mandela was a statesman, world leader and icon of inspiration of humanity. He was a great friend of India and his contribution for strengthening the close ties between our two countries will be always remembered".

Mandela was awarded the Bharat Ratna in honour of his contribution to the friendship between our two countries, he said.

"I convey heartfelt condolences on behalf of the people and the Government of India as well as my personal behalf to the family members of Late President Mandela and the people and the Government of South Africa," Mukherjee said.

Describing Mandela as the "greatest personalities of our times", Vice President Hamid Ansari said he represented the best of human spirit and values.

While his courage, determination and sacrifice inspired millions of people during the anti-apartheid movement, his message of peace, forgiveness and reconciliation thereafter, united them and led the rainbow nation on the path to peace and progress, he said.

"In his death, South Africans have lost the father of their nation and the world a statesman, whose life and message of courage and goodness would continue to inspire and guide all of us around the world in the years ahead," the Vice President said.

Condoling his death, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, "A giant among men has passed away. This is as much India's loss as South Africa's. He was a true Gandhian. His life and work will remain a source of eternal inspiration for generations to come. I join all those who are praying for his soul".

Mandela, South Africa's first elected black president, was widely respected for his role in fighting racism in the country, and for forgiving his former white captors after his release from prison.

Mandela died early today at his home in the suburb of Houghton in Johannesburg following a lengthy illness.He was 95.

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