Interview with President Patil where she discusses among other things her foriegn visits

Full transcript: President Pratibha Patil's interview to NDTV

Amid controversy over her foreign trips, President Pratibha Patil, in an exclusive interview to NDTV's Rahul Shrivastava, says the visits go a long way in boosting India's image internationally. She has also made it clear that the President's travel plans are drawn up by the government.

Here's the full transcript of the interview:

NDTV: Hello and welcome. India has begun the process of choosing its next President. Some have chosen to call the post ceremonial, but in the 21st century managing the aspirations of over a billion people and the diktats of a Constitution is a tough job. How tough is the job? Who better to answer the question than Madam President Pratibha Patilji. Prathibhaji really nice of you to speak to us.

President Patil: Thank you.

NDTV: We are here, perhaps at the end of your five year term, it's been a long term. It's long, perhaps peaking of long political, distinguished career in which you have virtually held every kind of post from being a young Legislator, to Minister, to Governor, to Deputy Chairperson of Rajya Sabha. Perhaps you have seen the whole spectrum, and perhaps attained something which many can't aspire to but can't achieve.

President Patil: And a Leader of Opposition, also in Maharashtra state.
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NDTV: Of course. I remember that night after you took over, the delegation of Opposition parties came to meet you on one state issue, and after you gave them tea and hospitality and spoke to them in their local language, they all came out very happy. But how do you sum up your five years, has it been tough? Lot of pressure, is it a pressure job? Because outside there is an impression that it is a ceremonial job. And while it's a seat of the Constitution, as the Head of the Constitution in India, do you think today things are much different, from when the Constitutional fathers created the Constitution, for a President?

President Patil: I think yes, over a period there have been lot of expectations and a lot of aspirations of the people also, and particularly when I became the President, the first woman President, naturally all the women in the country they were very delighted. Of course and they also expected that something may happen for them. So when I took over I thought that I must do something for the empowerment of women. And you see a Governor, a Governors' Conference is called by the President.

NDTV: That was your proactive intervention there. You asked for a conference?

President Patil: No, that is a practice. During the five year term the President calls for a meeting of the Governors twice during their term. So I also invited the Governors and we had a Governors' Conference in 2008. I took over in 2007 July, so it was in 2008. So after two days all the discussions, where all the Ministers, Prime Minister, they also attend and I, you see, appointed a committee of Governors to go into the whole question of women empowerment. What should be done for that? There has to be some policy on empowerment of women. You see departments and ministries being on their own, some activities, some schemes that's alright. But there has to be some policy initiative, in that will give a further boost up to development of women in different fields. So I constituted this committee, I also requested them, I also discussed along with them many a times when they had their meetings. Mr Kidwai who was the Governor of Haryana then...

NDTV: Mr AR Kidwai?

President Patil: He was the Chairman. And they interacted with various organisations, workers in this field, different governments, experts. They sought to see the opinions of the lady legislators and Parliamentarians, so after having a very wide discussion and we got all the feedback, and then a report was prepared, and they said Madam, this the report and these are all our recommendations. Then you see I discussed with Prime Minister, that see this is necessary, that there has to be some policy for the empowerment of women, and some direction given to that. So he said, alright I will appoint a committee of Cabinet Ministers and ask them to examine this. Accordingly that he appointed a committee, Mr Raju Singh ji was there at that, under his Chairmanship and other seven, eight Ministers. They examined it and they recommended it to the Cabinet. The Cabinet decided to establish, according to the recommendations of the report, a Vision for the Socio-Economic Empowerment of Women. Second was the recommendation of going into the whole question of gender equality. And there should be, you think, a platform or a forum where this whole question will go in details and some policy initiatives taken. So very recently, I think in February this year, a committee under the leadership of Justice Ruma Pal, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court, has been appointed to go into this whole question. And thirdly there is Rashtriya Mahila Kosh which helps women in distress for standing on their own legs, starting their own business and earning their own living. So that also is being reconstituted and that fund is enhanced for that purpose. So I think these are very major policy decisions and initiatives which have been taken by the government. This will go into the whole question. This will cover 50 per cent of the population of our India. And of course the ball has been set rolling, you won't see the results immediately, but now slowly, slowly, as it gathers momentum, you will see the thrust and the importance of the empowerment of women will gather momentum.
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President Patil: Very much, very much I tell you. Because they feel that government and particularly India has given them importance by sending their President here.

NDTV: The Senior most functionary of the government and that you see enhances the bilateral relations...

President Patil: ... the friendship and you can work closely with them.

NDTV: It is also the people-to-people interaction, business interaction.

President Patil: So many things.

NDTV: The President being there is a stimulus in creating a goodwill about India?

President Patil: President visits all the leadership there. The Parliamentary exchanges are also there, because with the President, Ministers, Members of Parliament and high officials, they also accompany. And along with this, of course, they feel they are coming close to India. I have seen that there is a lot of desire in many countries to come in close contact with India and develop their relationship. So this helps a lot in strengthening your bilateral ties and creating goodwill.

I visited China, I visited UK, I visited Russia, which are the very important members in the P5 in the United Nations Security Council. I had been to, my first visit was to Latin America and India seeks Latin America to be their important partner in the world. So that, so that goes a long way in bringing these countries to and this whole Latin American countries together. I have, as per our policy, I have visited countries in Asia, and Africa is very important for us. So I have visited South Africa also now. So these are, you see, this is the impact and you see, the people, they try to know more and more about India, and our people also come close for people to people contact and for development relations in various sectors. Formerly it was only political, now it's economic, it's tourism, it's educational, it's cultural, many types you see, sectors, they come together.

NDTV: You mean to say the dividends from a trip have gone up, in terms of the kind of qualitative dividends which can be found from a trip? If it is from the President, it gets better.

President Patil: Of course.

NDTV: Now, while we are discussing this entire business of...

President Patil: And use, excuse my interruption, and you mentioned that this is a ceremonial post. Yes some people say it, I don't want to comment on that. But I would like to say that all these visits are organised in a very serious manner. A detailed programme is chalked out, meeting the leaders, meeting the Indian community there, meeting the Parliamentarians, the business community and the Indian community there and when you see the discussions are restricted, meeting there with the Head of the State is held. There is, you see, the whole delegation sitting there along with both the Presidents. Their External Affairs Minister, from here our Minister comes and their Foreign Affairs Secretaries, our Secretaries, my Secretary is there, other officials are there and the talks are held in all seriousness. And whatever transpires, that, you see, goes in their record and follow up action is done by both Governments. So it is with all the seriousness the talks are held and thereafter follow up is also done. So people may say it is ceremonial but the visits are not ceremonial. They are serious and it has substantive connotations.

NDTV: Madam, while we are talking about trips, over the last few weeks and months, there's been a whole, this talk about your trips, family members. Has it hurt you? Has it pained you in terms that these are tangents to the trips, and perhaps have dwarfed the utility of, of the Presidential trips, not just abroad but also in India?

President Patil: You see, so far as relatives or guests accompanying the President, this has been the international practise. And in previous occasions also in the past, guests and relatives have accompanied the President. So it is not that I have set the precedent. If at all, or any legacy also, if at all any legacy which I have set is taking a business delegation along with me and which has paid a lot of dividends. When I went to Latin America first, about 17 to 18 business persons came with me. And then, next visits, there was slowly an increase in their numbers. They got interested. Because when they go along with the President, the business community of that country, their counterparts, they have discussions. They explore their possibilities of further, you see, expanding their business or setting up their business or investment and you see they get the attention of that country. Therefore, and I tell you many business to business agreements were signed there in many countries, and some of them before us, in front of us. Therefore, as they see that it is beneficial. Now you see the business delegation number is increasing, and this time to South Africa it is as much as 60, somewhere about 60 business persons have accompanied and the President of South Africa also participated in the meeting. Because first when I go, I hold internal business meetings, meeting our business people, trying to know what are their difficulties, what is happening. And then you see they meet their counterparts, they explore their possibilities for further business, for starting new business. And then when the joint meeting of both the business organisations then you see, last time, this time, President Zuma came and he said, if we will provide all the support to make trade easy and we want that business should prosper. So what more do you want? They get the assurance from the highest...

NDTV: ...authorities

President Patil: And they see, see that this is very beneficial for them to go more into business in these countries. So I think, probably, I have been a catalyst you see, to bring about business communities to both the countries and you see the attention to them, from the respective governments. No government, Government of India has not spent anything on that. They come on their own, and this is very advantageous to our country also and business people are finding it very well. So I think this is the legacy probably I have set.

NDTV: Has it hurt you or do you think it hurts the Institution of the President? These kind of controversies?

President Patil: I think you see, this post of a President is a Constitutional post, and you see it is the duty of everyone, all citizens to see that they respect that, not me.

NDTV: The Institution.

President Patil: I will be not there after few months, so it's not a question of Pratibha Patil. It's the question of the post, so of course if anything was done wrong, they have all the right to say that, but of course it is necessary to see that what is the factual position, what is true, what is; and then you can speak about that. That will be better and then the people will also be well informed. Right now, so far there have been many misconceptions about the visits of the President, so it is good if the people of our country know what the importance of such visits is.


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