New Delhi, Oct. 27: Outgoing foreign minister S.M. Krishna today said “the flavour of the season is that youngsters must take over the reins of responsibility” but hastened to debunk suggestions of sarcasm by adding that he was gladdened by the turn of events.
Krishna, suave as ever and careful about his words, today said his time as external affairs minister was up. Krishna, 80, said demographic changes in India with “60 to 70 per cent population” being below 35-years meant that “senior citizens like me should make way”.
However, the former minister stressed that an important portfolio like the external affairs ministry required experience. “This in no way denigrates the importance of experience. I think experience is an important attribute. And particularly in pursuing the foreign relations with other countries there has to be patience and patience abundantly and also perseverance,” he said.
He was quick to add that he was “glad that this initiative (to bring in young blood) has been by and large appreciated”.
Krishna, who met the Prime Minister in the morning and spoke to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on the phone, denied that he was asked to resign. “The decision came from within. And my wife had a major role to play in the decision making,” Krishna said.
The veteran sought to dismiss speculation that he would be heading back to Karnataka where Assembly elections are due next year. “Well, I said youngsters should lead. And then we are there to support the youngsters in their efforts to forge ahead,” he said.
He said he has been in public life for 50 years and has done enough in politics, prompting some to wonder if he was preparing to hang up his boots.
Krishna, who travelled to 83 countries in three years and four months as foreign minister to attend officials meetings, said he had “overstretched” himself and will take a couple of months to “relax, regroup, recuperate from the strains and rigours” before he decides his next course of action.
He said his tenure at the foreign ministry was a “respectable” period unsullied by any scandals and he tried to bring transparency to contracts, passport allotment and the Haj pilgrimage.
Krishna said Sonia Gandhi appreciated his work. “She wanted me to continue with whatever I am going to do as member of Parliament,” he said.
The former external affairs minister said he “can look back at my tenure… with a sense of satisfaction”. He counted among his achievements the improvement in India’s ties with both Pakistan and China to a “manageable relationship” and the all-round progress in the relationship with immediate neighbours.
“Nobody can claim that all the issues have been resolved with our neighbours. But statesmanship lies in the fact that how well you manage those issues which seem to be confronting you all the time... whether it is in reference to China or Pakistan, I think the last three years has seen quite a bit of improvement in our relationship,” Krishna said, not forgetting to credit the Prime Minister, too.
Addressing criticism that he didn’t leave much of an imprint on policy issues with the Prime Minister’s Office taking important decisions, Krishna said the ministry could not pursue foreign policy independent of the Prime Minister’s vision. He said the Prime Minister and the foreign ministry worked in “perfect harmony” during his stint.