The Indian diaspora is upbeat with prospects of further deepening of New Zealand-India bilateral relations after the recent visit by India’s Minister of State for External Affairs, Gen. V. K. Singh in the South Pacific.
The Minister was in Fiji to host a two-day conference organised under the framework of the Forum for India Pacific Islands Co-operation (FIPIC).
The fact that Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand, Sanjeev Kohli, also attended the two-day conference in Suva demonstrates India's larger strategic vision for the South Pacific region, in which New Zealand is an influential player with largely converging goals of development, political stability and prosperity.
The visit has not only given Indian political leadership an opportunity to emphasise its commitment to the South Pacific but also to demonstrate that India’s vision in the region coincides with New Zealand’s overall strategic goals for the region.
This is pleasant news for the Indian diaspora in New Zealand as diasporas per se are not only the drivers of foreign policies of states in international relations but also bearers of the impact of changing bilateral relations between any two countries.
Indian diaspora in New Zealand has always been fortunate to never experience any coldness in bilateral relations between the two countries as the relations have largely been driven by the Commonwealth legacy, mutual love for cricket and people-to-people fondness that undercuts all politics and bureaucracy that defines bilateral relations between any two countries.
However, diaspora has never been a significant driving factor in the bilateral relations between the two countries so far.
Probably the pre-globalisation era archaic political system in India and the geographical remoteness of New Zealand have limited the potential of the Indian diaspora in New Zealand to transform the bilateral relations between the two countries.
This has changed significantly in the last few years, especially with the Narendra Modi-led government at the helm of affairs in New Delhi.
The Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in India has radically transformed the manner in which India is re-engaging with its global diaspora – on occasion rejuvenating the diaspora to the extent that has redefined the script of India's bilateral relations with major powers of the world.
India's dramatically changed relation with the United States (US) is one such story of how a vibrant and economically strong diaspora can help achieve the foreign policy goals of the two countries.
Today, India and the US find themselves strategically aligned on almost every complex issue in global politics.
A similar transformation waits in the India-New Zealand bilateral relations with the Indian diaspora ready more than ever to play a transforming role to create a win-win situation for both the countries.
It will be in the mutual interest of both the states if their respective political elites successfully tap into the inherent desire of the Indian diaspora to build bridges for better relations between the two countries.
Narendra Modi and his team in India will do well to take note of the Indian diaspora’s burgeoning desire to connect back to their homeland.
Similarly, New Zealand political elites will do well to allow this burgeoning Indian diaspora drive the bilateral relations between the two countries and create mutual win-win outcomes for both the nations.
An important event in the Indian diaspora calendar in New Zealand that brings all communities, leaders, business magnates and influencers in the Indian community together on one platform is the Kiwi-Indian Hall of Fame awards where the community recognises the trailblazers among them.
The two key organisations of the Indian diaspora – New Zealand Indian Central Association (NZICA) and India-New Zealand Business Council (INZBC) will be present at the event along with all the main community organisations across the country.
Political elites of both the main political parties of the country – National and Labour – have been present at previous events.
This is an opportunity to deepen bilateral ties between the two countries.