The newly appointed envoy to India David Pine had also boarded the historic maiden direct flight from Auckland to New Delhi in the early hours of Sunday, June 7. 

It was a pleasant surprise to see Mr Pine at the Auckland airport along with his other diplomatic colleague who would be joining the India mission heading to board the Air India’s special evacuation flight AI1307 on Saturday night. 

Notably, it was only on Friday, June 5, that the Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade, Winston Peters had announced Mr Pine’s appointment as New Zealand’s new envoy to India, and Mr Pine was seen boarding the flight the very next day. 

The urgency to join the team on the ground at India-mission 

Speaking to the Indian Weekender at the Auckland airport Mr Pine said, “I am in a hurry to get to New Delhi as quickly as I can. The team up there as you know has been working incredibly hard. It's time for some of them to take a break. I and my colleague are looking forward to getting there as quickly as possible and doing what we need to do. 

“There is a lot of work to do around the other flights and we will get through that. 

“Once we catch up our breath, I think I will come back again and have a pre-posting catch-up with all key stakeholders of this important relationship and will then go-up with my family,” Mr Pine said. 

Can Kiwis stranded in India expect quicker action? 

Further on being asked if he can expedite some quick action in repatriating stranded NZ citizens,  permanent residents and work visa holders (with exemption to enter NZ borders) once he takes charge of the mission Mr Pine was quick to emphasise that the High Commission’s team was already on top of the issue and trying to offer best possible solutions. 

“They know that they are getting the full attention of the NZ High Commission already, and that will continue as we go up there. 

“These things are a lot more complicated than they are thought from the outside,” Mr Pine said. 

“It would be complicated enough for establishing links and letting new airlines come to NZ at the best of times, and these are very complicated times. There is a lot of work. 

“We understand that people stranded there are anxious to get home. We are anxious to get them back home. But I hope they can trust that we are working incredibly hard to get them back home,” Mr Pine said. 

Key expectations for improving NZ-India bilateral relationships

On being asked what expectations he would be carrying to enhance this bilateral relationship Mr Pine said, “Well the world might have turned upside down by this Covid-19 health pandemic, but we got to look beyond that too. 

“We are going into this relationship with tremendous momentum from the Ministers visits

“The opportunities that we are seeing for deepening this relationship across a wide range of spectrum from political to economic to cultural, so there is great momentum to this relationship 

“I am looking forward to bringing our best team of NZ Inc together and putting our best foot forward,” Mr Pine said. 

First direct flight - a historic occasion 

The news of Air India’ direct flight from New Delhi to Auckland and back had already been generating many emotions and hope for its potential to become more permanent and thereby enhance the bilateral relations between the two nations and Mr Pine fully acknowledged the fact. 

“It's a very historic occasion of the first flight to India. I don't think anyone ever imagined that this would be the way the first flight would be [started] under these circumstances. But who knows what it will lead to in the future,” Mr Pine said. 

Curries for Lunch

On a lighter note, just before rushing to board his flight Mr Pine quickly responded on his interest in Indian curries, if any, that he preferred them on his lunch table and it were often quite regular on the menu. 

Notably, MR Pine had extensive postings in the South East Asian region (Malaysia & Philippines) and was no stranger to curries. 

Though this is his first exposure to the South Asian region. 

The Indian Weekender team wishes him good luck for this new assignment and hope the already flourishing relationship will be elevated to the next level thus fulfilling what Foreign Minister MR Peters had rightly said that NZ and India could do and should do better. (See the full interview here)