Increasing potential for better Indo-Kiwi relations

Venkat Raman

Distance is no more a constraint in developing bilateral relations and there is immense potential for Indo-Kiwi relations to grow, India’s High Commissioner to New Zealand Ravi Thapar has said.

Speaking at the 66th Republic Day Celebrations, which he hosted at Bharat Bhavan of the Wellington Indian Association in the Capital on January 26, he said that current trends of economic interdependence and electronic connectivity influence relations between the two countries.

“Today, experts and centres of excellence in both democracies can go digital and jointly evolve positions on various critical issues confronting the world. The presence of a large overseas Indian community also facilitates such linkages,” he said.

Ministerial visits

Mr Thapar said that while the visit of New Zealand Prime Minister John Key to India (June 26 to 30, 2011) set the trend for higher level of engagement, exchange visits by other ministers, lawmakers and officials have added to the momentum of on-going ties.

Editor’s Note: The late Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi were the only Indian Prime Ministers to visit New Zealand (1968 and 1986). Former Prime Ministers of this country including Norman Kirk, Robert Muldoon, David Lange and Helen Clark have visited India and cemented relationships.

Citing the election of three former Indian citizens to Parliament in the general election held on September 20, 2014 as significant, Mr Thapar said the Indian Diaspora has also been an effective link in promoting relations.

Bilateral Trade

Mr Thapar said that while bilateral trade between the two countries stood at $1.1 billion last year, there were significant opportunities for enhancing such engagement.

A section of guests at the Republic Day Celebrations            (Pictures by Bhikhu Bhula)
A section of guests at the Republic Day Celebrations
(Pictures by Bhikhu Bhula)

“The investment flows need not only be geared towards India. Rather, as has just been established through the allocation of a large offshore block off the Taranaki coast to ONGC Videsh Ltd (a subsidiary of US$ 58 billion parent company Oil & Natural Gas Commission of India), Indian companies and corporate majors could also invest in tangible projects in New Zealand,” he said.

Mature Country

Mr Thapar said that since becoming a Republic on January 26, 1950, India has matured to become US$2.1 trillion economy, which in terms of Purchasing Power Parity, makes it the third largest economy in the world.

“Having evolved through long periods of indigenous kingship and foreign rule, India deeply values its strong democratic foundations. Although nourished by its ancient civilizational heritage and spiritual ethos, it actively pursues the use of scientific and technological tools for securing a better and prosperous future for its teeming millions,” he said.

Describing India’s pool of scientists and engineers as ‘immense,’ he said that the country was the first in the world to put an indigenously-designed and manufactured satellite vehicle into the Mars orbit in very first attempt.

“This was achieved at a record economical cost of US$ 74 million, which is less than the cost of ‘Gravity,’ a Hollywood blockbuster,” Mr Thapar said.

Ratna Venkat presenting a fusion dance with vocalist-guitarist Jeffery Nathan
Ratna Venkat presenting a fusion dance with vocalist-guitarist Jeffery Nathan

Ethnic Communities Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-liga, Opposition Leader Andrew Little, National Party MPs Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Dr Parmjeet Parmar, Paul Foster Bell and Brett Hudson, Wellington Mayor Celia Wade Brown, diplomats and people of Indian origin were among those who attended the Celebrations.

Dance performances by Ratna Venkat with live music by Jeffery Nathan and Joseph Alexander (from Auckland) were a highlight of the event.

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