New Delhi: "For decades, I have been a student of India. Now I finally have a degree to prove it."

These were the words of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as he accepted Degree of Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) conferred on him by the prestigious Jamia Milia Islamia here.

67-year-old Ban, who began his diplomatic career in India 40 years ago, heaped effusive praise on the country and its rich tradition and culture in his 20-minute acceptance speech.

Beginning his speech on a personal note, he said his son was born in India and years later, his daughter married an Indian.

"The couple produced what I consider to be the world's finest joint venture between our two countries -- my grandson Jai," he said, evoking laughter among the audience.

The UN chief said he felt "at home" when he is in India.

"I arrived in New Delhi exactly 40 years ago on my first diplomatic posting. It was one of the best things that happened to me," he said.

Ban said ever since that, he had got lessons from the "proud history" of India and its traditions. "I have been inspired by your example. The bonds go deeper."

As he began his speech, Ban said in Hindi, "Mae yahan aakar bahut khush hoon (I am so happy to be here)."

(Agencies)