"India has one of the richest repositories of heritage anywhere in the world and it is critical that we find practical and innovative ways to preserve and maintain this heritage," he said while inaugurating the refurbished Humayun's tomb.
The 16th century tomb complex, one of the biggest tourists draws in the Indian capital, is a World Heritage Site and has been restored to its glory after six years of painstaking work.
Manmohan Singh said there was a need for India to evolve a more holistic understanding of conservation that combines preservation efforts with the social and economic needs of communities that surround these historic monuments.
"Going by what I have seen and heard today, I think we have found a good model in the public-private partnership that has restored this great monument to its earlier glory.
"The increase in visitor numbers to this World Heritage Site will also translate into greater income through tourism," he added.
Manmohan Singh said that communities of the Hazrat Nizamuddin Basti now benefit from improved urban infrastructure in health, education, water and sanitation as a by-product of this initiative.
"The Humayun's tomb project, I believe, has provided 200,000 man-days of employment for master craftsmen," he said.
"I would like to congratulate the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, the ASI and the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust on the success of this endeavour."
The tomb's restoration project is the largest and most ambitious heritage conservation project undertaken in India - and the only one by a non-government body, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture.
The Archaeological Survey of India, Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, World Monuments Fund, Ford Foundation and other organisations are partners in the project.
It was built in 1565, nine years after the death of Mughal emperor Humayun, close to the Yamuna river which then used to flow through the area.
Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch lauded the public-private partnership model, and felt every citizen of India is responsible to preserve the country's cultural heritage.
"I believe that we in India are extremely fortunate to have a cultural heritage that goes back thousands of years. At the same time, this places tremendous responsibilities upon us," she said.
"It is not a legacy of our fore-fathers to be enjoyed and frittered away. It is the heritage of our children and future generations and we are under obligation to ensure that we don't destroy what is with us for only a life time," she added.
Along with the tomb, a number of adjoining monuments: Nila Gumbad, Isa Khan's garden tomb, Bu Halima's garden tomb, Arab Serai gateways, Sundarawala Mahal and Burj, Batashewala group of monuments, Chausath Khambha and Hazrat Nizamuddin Baoli have also been restored.
The Aga Khan, chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, pointed out it was the prime minister in 2004 who first recommended this public-private model.
"He was the first person to recommend that projects like this should be built on public-private partnership. The completion of this project marks accomplishment of a great goal," he said.
"Historic restoration can be an effective springboard for economic and cultural development," he added.
Also present at the ceremony were Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's wife Gursharan Kaur, designer duo Meera and Muzaffar Ali, veteran designer Ritu Kumar, lyrist Prasoon Joshi, artist Anjolie Ela Menon, and former Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata, representing the Sir Dorabji Tata Trust.
--IANS (Posted on 18-09-2013)