Many in the Kiwi-Indian community who have been living in the country for generations without having faced a racist tirade by a Government Minister about their culture and the choice of marrying someone have been compelled to ask if the NZ embassy in India has been doing its job properly – of keeping the government well-informed.
It will certainly be not a good look for Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her government to come out again and say that even foreign-missions, (after Immigration New Zealand) has not been keeping her government duly informed.
"Educating your government about the important cultural tradition of one’s host country is the first thing expected from the High Commissioner in that country," Narendra Bhana President, Auckland Indian Association said.
"It is of concern to us that if our New Zealand High Commission has been doing its job properly and keeping the home government informed around immigration issues and cultural sensitivities," Mr Bhana said.
The fact that recently the Foreign Minister Winston Peters himself was exposed making an inflammatory statement that categorically sought to delegitimize traditional Indian marriages – a time tested social institution - months before he himself is scheduled to visit India on an official bilateral visit, is the case in point.
Mr Peters had said in an interview with RNZ that "It's clear as daylight, they are not partners, full stop... that the rule says, "you've got to be a partner - if you're not a partner how can you construct them as a partner when they're not?"
As the dust settled slowly after a series of “worked-up” interviews with other politicians, it began to emerge that INZ has never categorically denied the existence of a conjugal relationships in their assessments of majority of partnership visa applications emanating from India.
It was just that immigration officers had suddenly started summarily rejecting almost all applications on the pretext that they were not meeting the immigration requirement of “living together” – an unreasonable exercise of discretion in interpreting immigration instructions.
Men protest partnership visa application delays outside Immigration NZ's Mumbai office in September 2019. Photo: Newsroom
Typically, it is a foreign mission's responsibility to keep their Minister and the home-government informed about important cultural traditions of their host nation so that their offices are mindful and sensitive in their own actions that can cause some unnecessary bickering.
It seems that like INZ bureaucrats, foreign policy mandarins of MFAT responsible for manning the Indian-mission in New Delhi have also aptly failed to keep the government well-informed, especially when foreign Minister is scheduled to visit India in three months to advance bilateral relations between the two countries.
Clearly, it appears that more groundwork is needed to prepare the Minister for the upcoming bilateral visit by our foreign policy bureaucrats.
This recent flare-up around partnership visa issue that culminated in a racist tirade on the Indian community by cabinet minister Shane Jones has also its genesis in the mess created at the INZ’s Mumbai office – which is under overall leadership of the office of the NZ’s High Commission to India.
The fact that all was not well at INZ’s Mumbai office for quite some time is well-known.
The office has been marred with a huge backlog of partnership visa applications for several months.
Lately, compelling many frustrated partners of New Zealand citizens and residents to protest in front of Mumbai Office in August this year for requesting more clarity and information on visa-processing times.
This was indeed unprecedented to allow a situation escalate to a level where a protest becomes the only measure available to get attention of the concerned authorities, especially in a foreign country.
Has the High Commission’s office based in New Delhi kept the Minister duly-informed the government about the protest and the brewing general resentment towards the acutely archaic functioning of INZ’s Mumbai office?
If it was, then what alleviating actions were taken to address the situation and prevent any further flaring up of the situation?
Indeed as the events unfolded in the following months it became clear that not much actions or briefing of the home government in New Zealand was done by the India-mission, leading to a situation where a lot of dirt was thrown on the Indian community including racist tirade and a question mark on traditional Indian cultural practices.