The ambitious theme undertaken by the India New Zealand Business Council Summit 2021 to foray into the "decade of new normal" was so apt that it was tested the very first day of the summit when Wellington was moved into Alert level 2 forcing physical absence of the Keynote speaker Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Nanaia Mahuta along with many other Members of Parliament.
Probably, there could not have been any other way to resonate with the central theme of the INZBC Summit that we have entered into the "decade of new normal," where disruption in travel and supply chains could test the resolve and agility of businesses and governments to respond appropriately.
Undeterred by this last-minute disruption in the plans of key dignitaries, which also included Labour Party MP Dr Gaurav Sharma, and Rino Tirikatene, the summit went on with virtual participation of local dignitaries along with from India and other parts of the world – which made the summit truly hybrid.
The physical part of this two-day hybrid summit was organised at The Trust Arena, Henderson, Auckland, which was attended by the High Commissioner of India Muktesh Pardeshi, and the Hon Consul of India Bhav Dhillon, while High Commissioner or New Zealand in India David Pine joined virtually from New Delhi.
The two-day summit was opened by a welcome note from INBC Chair Sameer Handa and followed a keynote address (delivered virtually) by NZ's Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and India's Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan.
Speaking on occasion, Minister Nanaia Mahuta delivered one of the very few speeches from NZ's top political leadership in recent times exhibit undiluted attention towards the emerging Indo-Pacific region and the centrality of India & Indo in the "Indo-Pacific."
"The Indo-Pacific connects our whanau of the Pacific, or close friends and relatives, further afield in East Asia and the Pacific Rim. And most importantly, the Indo-Pacific recognises the influence of the Indian sub-continent on the wider region," Minister Mahuta said.
Acknowledging the growing convergence of interests between India and New Zealand in the Indo-Pacific region, India's Minister of State V. Muraleedharan said, "India and New Zealand have shared interests in a peaceful, cooperative and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. The need for strengthening the strategic dimension of our relationship is felt more strongly than ever before. There is keen interest in India to further strengthen our relationship."
The sense of mutual bonhomie and a shared history of long diplomatic relations between the two countries, along with the Covid-related destruction and disruptions to global travel and supply lines were other areas of emphasis in the respective speeches of the two Leaders.
The second session of the two-day summit was a hybrid panel discussion on Indo-Pacific Strategic ties which brought together an elite panel including High Commissioner of India Muktesh Pardeshi, High Commissioner of NZ David Pine, Hon Consul of India Bhav Dhillon, Parliamentary Under Secretary for Minister of Trade, Rino Tirikatene, Ambassador Rajiv Bhatia (Chair, FICCI Taskforce), Suzannah Jessep, Director Research & Engagement, Asia New Zealand Foundation) and Prof Manjeet Pardeshi (Victoria University of Wellington).
In his opening intervention, High Commissioner Pardeshi also welcomed NZ's refreshing commitment towards the Indo-Pacific, as expressed earlier in Minister Mahuta's speech. NZ's High Commissioner David Pine said, 'The tides of democracy are pushing countries that value democracy closer together.'
Beyond Indo-Pacific focus, one of the oft-repeated theme expressed by many speakers, including Hon Consul of India, who is also a prominent business leader within the NZ-India commerce ecosystem, was to find ways to expand bilateral trade and the overall relationship between the two countries.
The INZBC Summit is still continuing on the second day, bringing perspectives from different experts and leaders from politics and business from both countries.
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