It is matter of time that India, a country of more than a billion people, becomes an economic and military super power.
It is already the third largest economy in Purchasing Power Parity terms.
This sea change (from being a Socialist State, it remains a part of the Non-Align Movement) in India’s fortunes has taken sometime.
However, considering its complex history and challenges, India continues to surprise most critiques.
Post-independence focus of India’s leadership was on transforming India in to a nation where its citizens have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
India’s leadership wanted to ensure that issues of social and economic inequality are addressed along with building a State that remains economically and politically strong.
This radical economic and political transformation was to be initiated at a time when India earned its independence and World War II ended.
However, the cold war was still in place.
India chose not to align with anyone of the camps of the cold war because it wanted to ensure that country’s decisions as a sovereign nation were taken independently, based on its national interests rather than being forced by America or Russia.
This theme of Strategic Autonomy continues at the heart of Indian Foreign Policy.
From the start of the cold war to late 1980s, India’s focus was limited to domestic issues with foreign policy considered only in the context of any effect on domestic issues and politics. There was therefore little engagement with other nations.
However, since the start of the 1990s, India’s engagement with the globe has grown considerably due to economic and political reforms within India and the end of the cold war. This has of course led to better trade ties and significant rise in exports, the effects of which are higher standard of living, thousands of Indians coming out of poverty and increased capabilities of the Indian Government.
One of the key policies to emerge from the 1991 Indian reforms was the ‘Look East Policy.’ The strategic thinking behind implementing this Policy was to support the country’s economic transformation and growth, particularly for the North Eastern region.
Over time, India has taken strategic steps towards strengthening its Look East Policy.
One of these was to accept the Association of South East Asian Nations (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) and six other nations (ASEAN+6, comprising China, India, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand) as the most economic grouping and as the regional framework towards an Asian economic community.
This opened up opportunities for India and all other member states of ASEAN+6 to negotiate trade agreements with each other.
For India, the ‘Look East Policy’ has led to greater economic integration with East Asia, and with the Indian government’s strong focus on this policy, integration is likely to grow. As India looks to further its interests in Asia, it hopes to form an Asia-centric economic block that may well include Australia and New Zealand.
New Zealand’s economy is built on external trade.
Even before it was colonised, New Zealand citizens traded goods produced locally for items from overseas producers and merchants.
Over the years, this practice of exchanging goods and services led to broadening of the product base, so much so that starting from 1930s through to 1980s trade became an increasingly important component of foreign policy.
The objective guiding New Zealand’s foreign policy historically and at present is to pursue “as much market access for its export goods as possible.”
In continuation of this objective, successive governments pursued free trade agreements. Some examples of free trade agreements that this country has signed or is negotiating are the New Zealand China Free Trade Agreement, the New Zealand Australia Free Trade Agreement and the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement.
New Zealand has also completed negotiations with South Korea for FTA and its negotiations with India, USA and other countries continue.
New Zealand considers India as an emerging Asian Superpower.
The country’s vision for India is to become a core trade, economic and political partner.
The positives shared are Commonwealth heritage, legal system, business language, democratic traditions, sporting passions and people-to-people links.
India is one of the world’s best performing economies for a quarter century.
In the past two decades, the size of the middle class has quadrupled and 1% of the country’s poor have crossed the poverty line every year.
These developments present huge opportunities for New Zealand to provide quality products and meet increasing demand.
Rahul Chopra is a postgraduate in Public Policy from AUT University, Auckland. Climate Policy, Climate Change, Environment and Spirituality are among the subjects that evince his interest in research and analysis.
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Please read our Editorial, “Looking East, India collects dividends’ in this Section.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (Centre) lends his hands to ASEAN Leaders at the 2014 Summit, his first after being elected in May.