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[New Delhi] The former scientific adviser to India’s defence ministry, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, is almost certain to become India's next president.

An aeronautical engineer by training Kalam, 71, is credited for his central role in India’s missile and nuclear weapon development. He will be the first non-politician to become India’s head of state.

Kalam's nomination by the ruling coalition has been endorsed by nearly all the political parties, including — though reluctantly — the main opposition Congress Party. But the Communist Party of India has protested against Kalam’s lack of political experience, and fielded an 88-year-old freedom fighter for the presidential poll, to be held on 15 July.

Political observers say that by nominating a Muslim as president, the Hindu-dominated government is affirming its religious tolerance. The Press Trust of India quotes Kalam as saying that he is first an Indian and then a Muslim, and that he "wishes to continue with his research and teaching activities after becoming president."

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