ON BOARD PRESIDENT'S SPECIAL AIRCRAFT: As she embarked on her last tour abroad as President, Pratibha Patil today dismissed criticism over a large number of foreign visits undertaken by her, insisting that they were not on her own volition but at the request of the government to promote India's relations.
"Government wanted me to visit two-three more countries, but it was not possible due to paucity of time," she told reporters accompanying her in her state visits to Seychelles and South Africa as part of "our efforts to further consolidate our ties with Africa...(which) occupies an important place in India's foreign policy".
Patil's term as President is ending on July 25. The President's refrain was that in an interdependent world, no country can remain in its own cocoon and it was necessary for countries to increase engagement with others.
Noting that India was elected as non-Permanent member of the UN Security Council with an "overwhelming majority", she said that for this it was "very necessary" to make new friends and promote ties with the old ones.
Asked as to how would she describe her 22 foreign visits so far, she remarked that they have been "very successful" in promoting India's growing image abroad and strengthen the country's ties with those nations which she visited.
Elaborating on the different kind of ties in a fast changing world, she said the relations between countries were no longer only political in nature, but have different aspects like economic, educational and cultural. She said that in such a scenario, high-level visits help in strengthening and furthering ties.