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India Now 3rd Most Important For NZ, Beats Singapore: Survey

Bilateral relations between India and New Zealand are expected to get into higher gear this year.

India has edged out Singapore to become the country New Zelanders think is third-most important for Aotearoa’s future, according to a new survey.   

The Asia New Zealand Foundation’s annual survey released Tuesday, June 18, shows the South Asian giant trails China and Japan in that ranking.    

Titled “New Zealanders’ Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples”, the survey shows Kiwis are increasingly looking towards Asia as a critical partner.

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The survey, which canvassed the views of 2,300 residents aged 15 and above, is the longest-running dataset on New Zealanders’ perceptions of Asia. 

The respondents also anticipated growing influence from India, highlighting its rising importance on the global stage.

Asia New Zealand Foundation’s Chief Executive Suzannah Jessep says this year’s survey is a clear indication Kiwis are watching India quite closely–“as a rising economic powerhouse as well as an increasingly influential and active country”. 

“Fifty-eight per cent of New Zealanders see India as important to our future, behind Japan at 70 per cent and China at 77 per cent. But the fact that India is now third–when not so long-ago India hardly featured in the New Zealand public’s conceptualisation of Asia–is significant.”

dsc08264_cropped_dit__FillMaxWzUxMCw3MTVdSuzannah Jessep, Chief Executive of Asia New Zealand Foundation. (Supplied photo)

Jessep points out the survey shows India’s future influence over New Zealand is also expected to increase, with 12 per cent of respondents saying India will be the most influential Asian country over the next 10 to 20 years. 

“While India is a significant way behind China, at 73 per cent, those who recognise India’s influence are pointing to the rapid growth of its economy, family and personal links through Indian immigration to New Zealand, as well as India’s cyber, AI and technological advancements,” Jessep says. 

Beyond India, the survey also underscores Asia's critical role, ranking it as the second most important region for New Zealand’s future after Australia. Within Asia, North Asia is seen as particularly significant.

Japan emerged as the most trusted major power in Asia, followed by Australia and the United Kingdom. However, overall trust in major powers is relatively low, the survey found. 

China is perceived as the country with the most influence over New Zealand, with 82 per cent of respondents acknowledging its current and future impact. 

When it comes to friendships, Japan was viewed as New Zealand’s best friend in the region, with Singapore and South Korea also seen favourably. Sentiment towards China is improving though it remains mixed, the survey found.

India and the Philippines were predominantly seen as friends, further cementing their positive image in New Zealanders' minds. In contrast, North Korea and Russia were perceived as the greatest threats to New Zealand.

The survey findings provide crucial insights for policymakers, researchers and the public. The increasing recognition of India’s importance suggests a need for deeper engagement and stronger bilateral ties. 

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