Community, bilateral trade, peace, and cricket-diplomacy were some of the key focus areas of the Indian High Commissioner's whirlwind tour of Christchurch and Auckland – the largest cities of South and North Island – over the last weekend.
Indian High Commissioner Muktesh Pardeshi was on a two-day visit to Christchurch on Friday-Saturday, November 22-23, before travelling for a day-long engagement in Auckland on Monday, November 25.
In between the trip to these two cities, Mr Pardeshi also had the opportunity of joining dignitaries at the official opening ceremony of Wellington Diwali Festival on Sunday, November 24.
Expressing satisfaction on the outcome of the hectic tour to New Zealand's main urban and business centres Mr Pardeshi told The Indian Weekender, "It was a great opportunity to interact with members of the community, industry captains and business leaders in the two cities for further advancing bilateral relations between our two countries."
"We were able to achieve a lot during the short time in Christchurch from celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi to meeting with Kiwi-Indian survivors of the unfortunate terror attack and understand their road to recovery, and meeting with international students.
Mr Pardeshi was joined by Second Secretary (Political, Information & Commercial Representative in High Commission), Paramjeet Singh, in the visit to Christchurch.
In Auckland, he was accompanied by Hon Consul of India Bhav Dhillon.
Meeting with Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce CEO
In Christchurch, Mr Pardeshi met with CEO of Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce, Leeann Watson, and discussed the ways of promoting business relations between Indian and Christchurch based companies.
The duo was joined by representatives of the local businesses in a round table conference.
Notably, Canterbury Employers Chamber of Commerce is a founding member of national business advocacy group BusinessNZ, and a key network partner of New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and Industry (NZCCI), and engaged in advocating for businesses.
Celebrating 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi
Later Mr Pardeshi joined the members of Kiwi-Indian community along with other dignitaries in the official celebrations of 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in the biggest city of South Island.
This year is being celebrated as 150th birth anniversary of India's greatest global icon Mahatma Gandhi around the world, and in that regard, Christchurch was an important destination with the largest population base of Kiwi-Indian community in the South Island.
The event was organised in association with Christchurch City Council, all Christchurch based Indian groups, Disarmament and Security Centre, Peace Foundation, Canterbury Interfaith Society and Mahatma Gandhi Birthday Celebration Committee.
Prof. Venkataraman Neelkant, Associate Professor, College of Business and Law of Canterbury University, delivered the keynote address highlighting Mahatma's qualities of non-discrimination and quest for experimentation.
Visiting Linwood Mosque and meeting with Kiwi-Indian survivors
Apart from these two official engagements, Mr Pardeshi divided his time in meeting with members of the community, including international students in the University of Canterbury and the survivors of the unfortunate Christchurch terror attack earlier in March this year.
Mr Pardeshi visited Linwood Mosque, one of the two sites of Christchurch shooting tragedy and asked after the welfare of families of victims of the tragedy as well as met the injured.
Subsequently, Mr Pardesi also visited the University of Canterbury to meet with a group of Indian (international) students enrolled in PhD and Masters Courses to get to know firsthand their experiences of challenges and the opportunities studying away from home.
Cricket-diplomacy at Eden Park
In Auckland, the High Commissioner was joined by Hon Consul of India Bhav Dhillon for a number of community engagements, of which key were the visit to Eden Park, New Zealand's National stadium and the Auckland Business Chamber.
Mr Pardeshi and Mr Dhillon met with Nick Sautner, Eden Park CEO, and David White, Cricket New Zealand CEO and discussed about the forthcoming visit of the Indian cricket team in New Zealand and the opportunities of community-engagement.
Meeting with Auckland Business Chambers CEO
Emphasising on the focus of enhancing bilateral trade between New Zealand and India, Mr Pardeshi and Mr Dhillon also met with Auckland Business Chambers CEO, Michel Barnett, on Monday, November 25.
Auckland Business Chambers is 160-year-old business-body and is New Zealand's largest business organisation and part of the New Zealand Chambers of Commerce network.
Earlier, in between his visit to these two biggest urban centres of New Zealand, Mr Pardeshi also managed to travel back to Wellington to join other dignitaries in the official opening ceremony of the Wellington Diwali Festival on Sunday, November 24.