Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters and Minister of Trade & Export Growth David Parker started their India tour on Tuesday, February 25 with a visit to Rajghat – a memorial dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi.

Notably, the visit of Peters and Parker is the first major bilateral trip by a Government minister since the coalition took office in October 2017. 

Posting an image of the two Ministers paying their homage to India’s Father of the Nation, on his twitter account Minister Parker said, “Paying our respects at the memorial to Mahatma Gandhi is an important priority on our visit to India.”

The office of the New Zealand High Commission to India further posted several pictures showing the Ministers accompanied with a high-level business delegation from New Zealand including the Kiwi-Indian MP Labour Party’s Priyanca Radhakrishan coming out from the precinct of Rajghat after paying their respects to India’s greatest gift to the rest of the world and an apostle of peace and Non-Violence Mahatma Gandhi.

Later in the day Minister Parker also met with India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to discuss enhancing bilateral trade between the two countries.

It is important to note that India is New Zealand’s 13th biggest trade partner with bilateral trade between NZ – India between the two countries increasing in the last few years and reaching to a new high of two-way trade of $3 billion.

Minister of Trade & Economic Growth of New Zealand, David Parker calls on Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in New Delhi (Image: Ministry of Finance, Twitter)

However, according to many experts, this is still at a much below levels than the actual full potential of this important bilateral relationship.

India is the world’s fifth-largest economy with a nominal GDP of $2.94 trillion, overtaking the United Kingdom and France in 2019. In terms of purchasing power parity, India’s global ranking is third, only behind the United States and China.

In recent years, both countries have tried to see each other differently, and more positively, courtesy to India’s dramatic economic rise in previous decades and the growing size of the vibrant Indian diaspora living in New Zealand.

The two countries have unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement in the last few years, both bilaterally and as a part of the multilateral regional free trade agreement (RCEP). 

However, there is an increasing urge on both sides to find more creative ways of mutual engagement, especially at people to people and business to business levels and enhance bilateral trade, and also at common global issues.

Recently similar sentiments were also echoed by one of  India’s leading academics and foreign policy analyst, Professor Raja Mohan, who was recently in New Zealand for the QS Summit at Victoria University of Wellington.

“New Zealand needs to find new ways to work with India.. you should always be looking for new ways to work with India, and not just in commerce.  There is a tremendous amount of goodwill, a huge scope for discussion, and the two countries are very close," Prof Mohan told the Asia Media Centre.