Time to harness relations beyond trade

Issue 357 November 1, 2016

In the history of the world, bilateral relations exist in a variety of forms – some of them are purely on give-and-take such as trade and investment; some of them survive based on security blankets- a watchdog enterprise to ensure territorial safety; and yet others are based on mutual respect and pure relationships.

India-NewZealand relationship is gone past the oft-repeated rhetoric of democracy, justice system, free and fair elections, love of cricket and the celebration of Indian culture and tradition.

Promoting food safety

Far there is a need to understand the challenges of friends and help them to improve productivity and profitability. In the case of India, food production runs counter to any free trade concept since it has sufficient resources to meets its internal demand.

However, Food Safety is a sector where the country needs international expertise, for, reports say that India loses almost 40% – either wasted or pilfered.

Mr Key rightly asked businesses to consider taking our expertise in logistics and chain management. It was therefore propitious that an agreement was signed between the two governments to food safety.

Maritime security is another area in which the the Modi and Key governments found synergy, leading to an accord, which will also see a combined approach to customs, cyber security and related matters. This Agreement provides for a framework that would allow sharing information on new customs procedures and techniques.

Tackling terrorism

Terrorism is an area of serious concern for India and hence Modi welcomed the agreement on relevant issues including the need to eliminate terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist networks and their financing, and stopping cross-border terrorism.

The Indian side however has cause to be frustrated as there was no indication on settling the contentious Nuclear Supplies Group (NSG). India has sought membership, and New Zealand is willing to vote for its inclusion provided New Delhi signs the NPT.

The visit comes in the run-up to a crucial NSG Consultative Group (CG) meeting to be held in Vienna specifically to consider whether countries that haven’t signed on to the NPT (like India and Pakistan) can be considered for membership.

India would face the meeting almost empty handed.

Other matters

There are other matters which we will discuss in due course.

Mr Key would like to see the positive aspects of his visit, saying that he has met a friendly Prime Minister who understands New Zealand and willing to work with it.

That may a general statement but let us believe that a new door has opened for better engagement keeping aside the ever-evasive Free Trade Agreement.

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Goodwill inaugurates a new Chapter with Fiji

Fiji’s Prime Minister & Foreign Minister Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama may not have been popular with the mainstream media, but appears to done well with most his people and the business community during his first official visit to New Zealand last month.

But visits of Prime Ministers are evaluated on the element of goodwill that they establish with their counterparts and officials of the guest governments. Having given a tongue-lash to Prime Minister John Key during the latter’s visit to Fiji on June 9 at a State Banquet, Mr Bainimarama appears to have softened his approach. He lifted all bans on the New Zealand media people from visiting his country, and took on a conciliatory approach to most issues, except on matters relating to the Pacific Islands Forum and PACE Plus.

The Indian Equation

With India showing interest in seeking full membership to the Forum (from its current Observer Status), there could perhaps be a resolution.  Indications in Delhi are that there are synergies being developed to make the Forum a more cohesive organisation. New Delhi may be able to convince Mr Bainimarama that Australia and New Zealand should be considered as important and inevitable members.

Prior to his departure from New Zealand, Mr Bainimarama said that he was encouraged by the positive nature of his meeting with Mr Key.

Encouraging Signs

“I am very pleased that the Prime Minister (John Key) has agreed with me to take the relationship to another level, a relationship where we let bygones be bygones and work closely together to advance the interests of Fiji and New Zealand’s peoples,” he said.

Speaking to journalists later, Mr Key acknowledged that the government still had concerns about freedom of the media and human rights but it was encouraging that Mr Bainimarama had lifted a ban on several New Zealand journalists coming to Fiji.

He said he had talked to Mr Bainimarama about that and told him it was in the best interests of Fiji to have a free media even if you didn’t always like what was said.

We have analysed several matters relating to Fiji in this issue.

We would like to believe that a new Chapter of good relations is in the making.

For it is not in the interest of either country to measure noses. Conciliation rather than confrontation, will deliver benefits to both countries.

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