Embarking on her 10-day farewell tour to Seychelles and South Africa, President Pratibha Patil on Sunday expressed the hope that it would help improve economic and strategic relations with these two nations.

Ms. Patil said the Presidents of both the countries had visited India and she was “reciprocating.” On her visit to Seychelles, the President said it was of strategic importance as India and Seychelles were bound together by the waters of the Indian Ocean.

“We are committed to working together closely in order to ensure the safety and security of the Indian Ocean region in the face of threats of piracy and terrorism. We are determined to continue to work with the government of Seychelles to ensure a secure environment for the mutual benefit of our peoples.”

She said Seychelles was also in proximity to lanes from where global trade took place. Since there was the menace of piracy and terror, India was cooperating with it in tackling them. A business delegation is accompanying the President to promote trade with the island nation.

President of Seychelles James Alix Michel will be receiving Ms. Patil, who is scheduled to attend a meeting of the India-Seychelles Business Forum later in the day and attend a community reception hosted by the High Commissioner of India.

To reach South Africa on May 1

As for South Africa, where she will be reaching on May 1, the President said she was looking forward to the visit to strengthen the framework of cooperation.

Ms. Patil, who is scheduled to meet President Jacob Zuma and Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and will be interacting with South African parliamentarians, described South Africa as “one of our closest strategic partners in the developing world and in the African continent.

“We work together in various international fora, including the United Nations Security Council, G-20, IBSA, BRICS, IOR-ARC and others. We share common perceptions with South Africa on trade issues and are closely coordinating our position on the Doha round of negotiations at the World trade Organisation,” she said.

The President expressed the hope that her visit to the country where Mahatma Gandhi began his journey of satyagraha, which won India its freedom and gave humanity a philosophy that offered hope for peace all over the world even today, would open new vistas for cooperation between India and South Africa.

23rd overseas visit

Asked by the accompanying media how she felt as she undertook her 23rd visit abroad, the President said India had a growing image and she would like to take it further to improve relations with other nations.

Realising the import of the question in reference to the issue of expenditure incurred on such visits, she said: “These visits are not organised by us but by the government. I was offered two-three other visits too which I turned down.”

Averring that “no country can exist in isolation today,” Ms. Patil said there were a lot of regional and global issues that concern and impact India.

“Today, political relations are not everything, but there are also economic and cultural relations as also tourism, which bind countries. Similarly, relations are not only bilateral, but also multilateral and involving different groups of nations.”

Making a mention of how India got overwhelming votes while seeking permanent membership of the United Nations, Ms. Patil said this could not have been possible had the country not promoted its relations with a large number of nations.

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