New Delhi: Having served as Foreign Minister twice, President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday said that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) was "perhaps his second love" after the Finance Ministry.
At an interaction with officer trainees of Indian Foreign Service (2014 and 2015 batches) who called on him at Rashtrapati Bhavan here, he said he has fond memories of his intellectual interaction with many foreign service officers, for all of whom he has high regard.
Mukherjee pointed out that he has "served as External Affairs Minister twice and enjoyed leading the ministry.
According to a press release issued by Rashtrapati Bhavan, the President said that MEA was perhaps his second love after the Finance Ministry, where he served for the longest period of time.
Foreign service officers, he said, are the spokespersons, interpreters and narrators of India's story to the world. Foreign policy is an extension of the enlightened self- interest of a country in the context of the environment prevailing in foreign countries, he said.
Noting that Europe has put aside centuries of conflict and formed a powerful union, he said that in today's world, 'Balance of Payments' and 'Terms of Trade' have replaced
'Balance of Power' in importance.
He also recalled how Mauryan era philosopher and jurist Kautilya had advised the king to be careful in appointing envoys, the release said.
The President said the foundation of India's foreign policy was laid by Jawaharlal Nehru and is based on our core civilisational values.
"National leaders like Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel kept a watch over international events and thought how they should be linked to India's interests," he said.
Mukherjee congratulated the officer trainees for having chosen this "challenging and exciting career" and described foreign service officers as the voice of the country abroad.
He said their initial years might be difficult and family life may suffer and they may encounter difficult conditions, but once they settle down, they will thoroughly enjoy their work and be able representatives of the world's largest functional democracy and a civilisation which has guided humanity for centuries.
Mukherjee's first stint in the foreign ministry was between February, 1995, and May, 1996, and he returned at its helm again from October, 2006, to May, 2009.