NEW DELHI | Former Indian PM Vajpayee dies after illness at age 93

NEW DELHI — Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has died after a prolonged illness. He was 93.

Vajpayee was a Hindu nationalist who in 1998 ordered nuclear weapons tests that stoked fears of atomic war with rival Pakistan. But he later launched a groundbreaking peace process with Islamabad.

That was not the only way in which Vajpayee seemed a political contradiction. He was a moderate leader of an often-strident Hindu nationalist movement, and a lifelong poet who revered nature but who oversaw India’s growth into a swaggering regional economic power.

Vajpayee’s supporters saw him as a skilled politician. Critics accused him and his party of stoking public fears of India’s large Muslim minority. Both sides agreed he was that most rare thing in Indian politics: a man untainted by corruption scandals.

By Associated Press