India and New Zealand have reviewed the entire range of bilateral relations including political, trade and economic ties, during the second Foreign Office Consultations.
The consultations were held on Tuesday, February 5, in New Delhi. Mrs Vijay Thakur Singh, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs led the Indian side while Ben King, Deputy Secretary, Americas and Asia Group, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade represented New Zealand.
A media release from the office of India’s Ministry of External Affairs said, “The two sides exchanged views on regional and multilateral issues, including cooperation at the UN and other international organisations.
"The second Foreign Office Consultations between India and New Zealand provided an opportunity to review the entire range of bilateral relations, including political, trade and economic ties. India reaffirmed its commitment to working closely with New Zealand in these areas."
Meanwhile, it is important to note that the bilateral relations between the two countries, which is largely defined by the presence of a strong vibrant Indian diaspora in New Zealand, a steadily growing bilateral trade, and the commonalities of cricket and commonwealth, is still short of its true potential.
Wellington had previously identified India as a priority country launching NZ India Inc Strategy in 2011 with the goal of strengthening economic, political and security relationships between the two countries. The initial launch of India Inc Strategy was followed by two bilateral visits by the former Prime Minister Sir John Key.
However, the bilateral relationship has seemed to not have spurted, as was expected by many, particularly in the field of trade and commerce, despite much-visible bonhomie at the highest level of political leadership between the two countries.
Notably, NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had spoken highly about her first meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of East Asia Summit in November 2017.
“I had good conversations with a range of people, but Modi was really engaged, interested in New Zealand, knew a lot about our relationship,” Ms Ardern had then responded to a media query on which world leader had left an impression on her whilst on her first appearance at the global stage.
This was after two visits by former Prime Minister Sir John Key to New Delhi and meetings with Indian PM Narendra Modi, which has been widely reported as warm and cordial.
However, accommodating mutually competing expectations especially in the dairy sector has been mostly responsible for the sluggish if not an altogether stalled progress on the talks on the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries.
Similarly, India has long been lobbying for NZ’s support for securing membership of an elite club – the Nuclear Supplier Group (a group of 48 countries that restricts the supply of nuclear material to the non-members).
India desperately needs unrestricted access to nuclear energy to fulfil its growing energy needs and assist in uplifting a vast mass of humanity out of endemic poverty.
Meanwhile, the High Commissioner of India to New Zealand, Sanjiv Kohli has expressed satisfaction with the recently concluded second foreign office consultations.
Indian High Commissioner to NZ Sanjiv Kohli
Speaking to The Indian Weekender, Mr Kohli said, “These consultations were part of the institutionalised framework that both sides have put in place to ensure regular contacts and thus have an opportunity to engage on a wide range of issues of bilateral, regional, and global issues.
“These talks underline the priority we both attach to widen and deepen our relationship,” Mr Kohli said.
New Zealand High Commissioner to India Joanna Kempkers also affirmed similar sentiments of enhanced priority being given by both nations to each other.
New Zealand High Commissioner to India Joanna Kempkers
Speaking to the Indian Weekender Ms Kempkers, “The talks went well. This was the second time in my two-year term that we have sat down with Indian officials to review the progress in the bilateral relationship and to exchange views on regional and multilateral issues.”
“Of course we used to meet previously in a more ad-hoc way, but the commitment to meet annually in this format has confirmed the value of New Zealand and India meeting more regularly to discuss issues of mutual interest and importance,” Ms Kepmpkers said.