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Winston Peters Off to Delhi, But Is There An India Strategy?

Photo: RNZ

As Foreign Minister Winston Peters embarks on his journey to India next week, it seems that
New Zealand is still adrift in the vast sea of uncertainty when it comes to defining its
relationship with India. Despite the touted potential and mutual goodwill, the lack of a clear
strategy from New Zealand’s end leaves it grappling in murky waters, uncertain of both
direction and purpose.

Peters’ upcoming visit to India marks the second official foray by a minister of the new
coalition government, following Trade Minister Todd McClay’s fleeting visit pre-Christmas.
Unfortunately, McClay’s visit seemed more like a token gesture to fulfil electoral promises
rather than a substantive step toward fostering a robust relationship with India.



Regrettably, Peters forthcoming visit appears to be echoing a similar lack of clarity and

The question begs: What does New Zealand aim to achieve from these diplomatic
engagements? Peters’ rhetoric echoes the same worn-out phrases about India’s economic
growth, friendly ties, and geopolitical importance. While these statements hold undeniable
truths, they fall short of articulating a coherent strategy or vision for New Zealand’s
engagement with India or any desired outcomes from this relationship.

At the heart of the matter lies a conspicuous absence of a well-defined agenda. What does
New Zealand bring to the table in this relationship beyond acknowledging India’s economic
prowess and geopolitical influence? The absence of a clear answer to this question is glaring
and disconcerting.

India, as the fastest-growing major economy and a rising global power, presents abundant
opportunities for collaboration across various sectors. Yet, New Zealand’s approach appears
to be reactive rather than proactive, lacking the foresight and initiative required to
capitalise on these opportunities effectively.

Peters’ visit, while undoubtedly significant, risks being overshadowed by its lack of
substance and strategic vision. Mere diplomatic niceties and platitudes will do little to
propel the Indo-Kiwi relationship forward. Instead, what is needed is a comprehensive and
forward-thinking approach that delineates clear objectives and outlines tangible steps for

New Zealand’s engagement with India cannot be limited to sporadic ministerial visits or
superficial exchanges of pleasantries. It demands a sustained and concerted effort, backed
by a well-articulated strategy that encompasses trade, investment, education, technology,
and cultural exchanges.

One of the fundamental pillars of successful diplomacy is mutual understanding and
respect. New Zealand must invest in fostering deeper cultural and people-to-people ties
with India to underpin its diplomatic efforts. Initiatives such as educational exchanges,
cultural festivals, and business delegations can serve as catalysts for forging stronger bonds
between our two nations.

Addressing concerns that potentially mar the relationship such as unconscionable delays in
granting visas to Indian students and discussing them openly with Indian counterparts
would be a good start to confidence building measures.

Additionally, New Zealand must leverage its unique strengths and expertise to carve out a
niche for itself in the Indian market. Whether it be in agriculture, renewable energy,
education, or tourism, there are ample opportunities for New Zealand to showcase its
capabilities and establish itself as a reliable partner for India.

Given India’s regional diversity and federal structure, it is imperative for New Zealand to
engage not only with the central government but also with various states and regions.
Peters’ visit to Gujarat is a step in the right direction, recognising the importance of sub-
national diplomacy in fostering robust bilateral relations. It would also appeal to the large
Gujarati diaspora in New Zealand, who have been resident in the country for over a century
and are well resourced both financially and with strong links back home in their flourishing

New Zealand finds itself at a critical juncture in its relationship with India. While the
potential for collaboration and mutual benefit is immense, it is imperative for New Zealand
to chart a clear course of action guided by a well-defined strategy. Mere rhetoric and
diplomatic gestures will no longer suffice; concrete steps and sustained engagement are the
need of the hour. As Peters embarks on his journey to India, let it be a clarion call for New
Zealand to navigate the waters of Indo-Kiwi relations with purpose, clarity, and resolve. The
time for ambiguity, waffling and indecision is over; the time for strategic action is now. For
far too long has New Zealand placed its India relationship on the back burner.

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