Cooperation in tackling climate change and the high-end space technologies could be the next significant avenues of advancing bilateral relations between New Zealand and India. 

This was one of the main outcomes of the INZBC summit in Auckland held on Monday, October 14, at the Pullman Hotel, thereby sidestepping the usual discourse around the much delayed Free Trade Agreement between NZ & India that normally dominates any conversation on bilateral trade between the two countries. 

Leading the charge in showing new avenues of cooperation, rather than getting bogged down by the seemingly delayed FTA talks, was the newly appointed Indian High Commissioner to New Zealand Muktesh Pardeshi himself, who called upon New Zealand to join India and France led International Solar Alliance – a global initiative to work for efficient exploitation of solar energy to reduce dependence on fossil fuels. 

Exhibiting an astute understanding of the current inclination of the NZ political leadership towards tackling the climate change, Mr Pardeshi called upon for mutual cooperation between both the countries. 

“New Zealand works a lot in the realm of climate change, and in the broader South Pacific region. We expect New Zealand to show us the way to collaborate in these areas in this part of the world.”

“We need to enhance our cooperation in certain strategic areas such as space-technology, counter-terrorism, and climate change,” Mr Pardeshi said. 

“India and France has launched a global initiative called the International Solar Alliance. We request New Zealand to join the initiative, Mr Pardeshi said. 

 “We can enhance our engagement in these strategic areas of cooperation, particularly in the Pacific region to deepen our bilateral relations,” Mr Pardeshi said. 

Cooperation in space technologies the next frontier

The day-long Summit, which was divided into four special sessions focussing on different areas of advancing bilateral relations between both the countries also emphasised on cooperation in the outer-space as the next frontier of advancing bilateral relations between both the countries. 

Speaking at the panel discussion on New and High Value Sector, Dr Duncan Steel, the Chief System Architect, XERRA, mesmerised the audiences with a colourful powerpoint presentation of how India’s advanced Geostationary and Lower Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites pass over New Zealand on regular intervals, although currently in a sleep-mode. 

A bilateral understanding of harnessing India’s advanced and easily available space technology could be of immense economic and commercial value for New Zealand.   

It is important to note that of-lately the NZ government is steering towards increasing interest in the outer-space. Between 2015 and 2016, within a remarkable 18 months, MBIE established the New Zealand Space Agency, with a budget of $14 million over four years, to help the country get a foothold in the global commercial space industry and build the necessary legislative structure. 

A prospective cooperation in this regard could be a win-win outcome for both the countries as India’s hitherto unused infrastructure in the outer-space could be put to use for New Zealand’s benefit. 

Earlier, the Summit was inaugurated by the Minister for Employment Willie Jackson who emphasised on the commonalities and the mutual-desire on both sides for taking this bilateral relationship forward. 

The fact that the two-way mutual trade between NZ and India had crossed the $3 billion mark earlier in March 2019 was also emphasised by several speakers throughout the day, thereby setting up the expectation for more. 

The Leader of Opposition Simon Bridges led the calls for “everything more with India,” while sharing his experience of the recent trip to India. 

Cottage industry could be another emerging area of cooperation 

In many regards this sixth annual INZBC Summit was able to bring in much fresh lease of life by focussing on many emerging areas of cooperation and the cottage industries was another such avenue that can not only connect but also empower the indigenous communities in both the countries. 

Speaking at the panel of Commercial Partnerships and Strategy, Liz Mellish, Deputy Chair, Federation of Maori Authorities said, “We can do far better in getting Maori businesses to join forums like this and do bilateral trade with similar businesses in India.”

Among other speakers, Hon Consul of India Bhav Dhillon shared cultural nuances of doing business in India, especially emphasising on the relational aspect, as opposed to the transactional style of doing business prevalent in this part of the world.