President Pratibha Patil's visits abroad are undertaken after careful appraisal and recommendation by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Prime Minister's Office, the President's office said on Tuesday. The comparison of foreign visits undertaken by various Presidents was, therefore, misleading, it said.
The clarification comes in the wake of the reports on Ms. Patil's foreign trips, based on information obtained through an RTI application.
Ms. Patil, whose term ends in July, is said to have undertaken 12 foreign trips covering 22 countries across four continents, which cost the exchequer Rs. 205 crore.
“The rising global profile of India on account of its dynamic economy, strategic importance, democratic governance and ancient civilisation links has led to enhanced engagements with countries across the world. As part of these engagements, it is necessary for the President of India to visit various countries to deepen bilateral cooperation,” the office said.
“Many places had to be visited since those countries had been pressing for a visit at the level of Head of State like Indonesia, Cyprus, Laos, Cambodia and Mongolia. Some of the countries which President Patil visited, such as Syria, Tajikistan and Spain saw the first-ever visit by an Indian President.”
Comparison of the number of foreign visits undertaken by various Presidents was potentially misleading as the frequencies of such visits did not follow a fixed normative pattern. Such visits were undertaken on the basis of standing invitations from countries abroad and after the need to undertake such a visit was appraised and recommended by the Ministry of External Affairs and the Prime Minister's Office, her office said.
Of the former Presidents, Abdul Kalam visited 17 countries, K.R. Narayanan visited 13 countries, R. Venkataraman travelled to 21 countries and V.V. Giri visited 22 countries during their tenure.
“The composition of delegation during the time of President Patil has also been on the same pattern as followed in the past and, therefore, to say that President Patil was ‘mostly' accompanied by family members is a distortion of facts,” the office said.