High Commissioner of India Muktesh Pardeshi, who has demonstrated a penchant for stepping-up engagement with Indian diaspora at multiple levels, is unfazed by Covid-related global disruptions and remains optimistic about the role that Indian diaspora can play in transforming bilateral relations with New Zealand.

Mr Pardeshi was speaking at the recently held India-Day event at Mahatma Gandhi Centre in Auckland to commemorate centenary celebrations of Auckland Indian Association – one of the oldest Indian community organizations.

“Globally, we have more than 30 million people of Indian origin living in different countries. Our diaspora is an extended family. As high achievers, people of Indian origin are enhancing the prestige of India.  We welcome our diaspora to remain connected with India and contribute to the achievement of national goals of peace, prosperity, and development. In order to promote broader cultural understanding between the two countries, we had conceptualized to hold a Festival of India in New Zealand in 2020. We would have to wait for things, especially international travel, to become safe and normal,” Mr Pardeshi said.

Undeterred by the current level of global travel restrictions and disruption to the plans for a Festival of India, Mr Pardeshi has further proposed new ideas of institutionalizing diaspora engagement in NZ.

First among the mix was proposing a day-long convention on Indian Diaspora in New Zealand in collaboration with a leading university, experts, and community organizations.

“The High Commission would like to jointly host a day-long convention, either in Auckland or in Wellington, on the theme ‘Indian Diaspora in New Zealand: Past, Present and Future’ in association with NZIRI, Victoria University of Wellington and Indian community organizations, in particular, Auckland Indian Association.”

“The objective behind this deliberative forum should be to how to connect with recent migrants, especially the youth and professionals,” Mr Pardeshi said.

It remains to be seen how NZIRI (New Zealand India Research Institute) – a premium research institute based in Victoria University, Wellington comprising of a consortium of academicians and scholars researching on India – will take up the proposal.

However, for now this proposal indeed looks promising for possibly putting up a forum which can potentially bring policymakers, diplomats, experts and community leaders together on one platform with a mutually cherished goal of deepening bilateral relations between two countries by enhancing diaspora engagement.

Mr Pardeshi also talked about his vision to transform the new upcoming premises of the Indian High Commission in Wellington into a hub of business, cultural and community activities, eyeing on the bigger goal of enhancing bilateral ties between the two countries.

“I propose the display of NZICA’s ‘125 Years of Indians in Aotearoa’ Exhibition with additional panels on diplomatic ties at the upcoming High Commission building later this year or early next year.  I also propose that an e-version of this exhibition is made for wider dissemination,” Mr Pardeshi said.

“We would like to support this project financially,” Mr Pardeshi further asserted demonstrating his intent and commitment.

It is important to note that the Indian High Commission has lately extended financial support to several diaspora initiatives including the recently held India-Day event to commemorate 100 years existence of Auckland Indian Association.

In any other year, this all might have generated enough euphoria and attention about the prospects of diaspora engagement for deepening bilateral ties.

Except that this is 2020-21 – the exceptional time – which is witnessing an unprecedented level of global disruption and travel restrictions and the world seems to be too distracted in dealing with a raging global pandemic than continuing with normal contours of diplomacy.