Prime Minister John Key scored a number of major diplomatic points with India in New Delhi on Tuesday (June 28), when he announced fresh initiatives that would bring the two countries together on a higher political and economic plane.
He charmed the political and business leaders of the world’s largest democracy with his hands-on and pragmatic approach during official and private discussions.
As this issue went to press, he was returning home satisfied that his Mission of getting closer to India was largely accomplished.
Following a punishing schedule of meetings, visits, luncheons and dinners during his two-day stay in the Indian Capital, Mr Key was able to achieve broad consensus on a number of issues that would have a long-term impact on Indo-Kiwi relations.
Among the most important initiatives that he announced in a joint statement with his Indian counterpart Dr Manmohan Singh at Hyderabad House was enhanced cooperation in the field of Defence.
“New Zealand will appoint a Defence Advisor to India to better facilitate defence linkages,” he said, without providing details.
But it is apparent that the two countries would engage in broader defence initiatives, including sharing of expertise, information and training facilities, which would produce substantial goodwill and understanding.
“Ship visits and staff college exchanges have deepened bilateral defence cooperation to the benefit of both countries,” he said.
It is understood that Mr Key and Dr Singh had discussed possibilities of greater interaction in areas relating to safety and security of sea-lanes and maritime security through regional and global cooperation.
Security Council Membership
While India’s quest for the Permanent Membership of the UN Security Council had not found vocal support from New Zealand in the past, Mr Key appeared to have scored a major point when he announced that the country would encourage moves in this direction.
“We would support India’s membership in a reformed Security Council, including in any expansion of permanent membership,” he said.
The declaration would please the Indian leadership on either side of the political divide, since it has been a long-standing ambition of India to seek a permanent place in the Security Council. New Zealand may be able to lobby other friendly countries, favouring India.
Dr Singh said India and New Zealand had entered a new era of friendship and that it was time to strengthen regional blocs such as the East Asia Summit, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN, ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus and the Asia Europe Meeting.
“We are also committed to the early conclusion of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) , the negotiations for which are progressing well,” he said.
Mr Key agreed, saying that successful conclusion of a high quality FTA would provide the platform for stronger economic interaction to the benefit of both economies.
Congratulating India on its World Cup Victory, Mr Key said both countries were looking forward to World Cup 2015 which will be co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia. “We have agreed to build stronger sporting ties between the two countries as a means of promoting stronger people-to-people links,” he said.
Mr Key was accompanied by his wife Bronagh and a strong delegation of businesses and media.
Among the leaders he met in Delhi were President Pratibha Patil, Vice-President Hamid Ansari, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, Opposition Leader Sushma Swaraj, Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and a number of business leaders and potential investors.
Dr Singh hosted a banquet in his honour at the Hyderabad House on June 28, which was attended by ministers, diplomats, high-ranking officials and other guests.
Earlier, Mr Key and Dr Singh witnessed the signing of two Agreements covering the education and film sector. Read details under Homelink in this issue.
Mr Key and his delegation were in Mumbai on June 29, fulfilling a number of engagements. They are due to reach home on July 1. 2011.