Home /  News /  New Zealand

‘Real Ambition, High Tempo’: Why Luxon’s India Pitch Holds Promise

Christopher Luxon’s government has shown “real ambition” to shore up relations with India even though specifics remain sketchy, says a top foreign relations analyst.

High-level bilateral visits expected later this year will elucidate what a renewed relation might look like with a country that a recent survey found Kiwis perceive as important, says the head of the Asia New Zealand Foundation. 

New call-to-action


“We have seen the current government come in with real ambition and a very, very high tempo of engagement across Asia,” says Suzannah Jessep, the chief executive of the think-tank at the forefront of Aotearoa’s relations with Asian countries.  

“I travelled with our foreign minister, Winston Peters, to India in March [this year] and he was doing back-to-back visits across the region.”

The former bureaucrat points out official backchanneling has picked up but the question everyone is asking is “what’s our conversion rate”.  

“How are we going to turn all of that high-level connectivity into substantive deliverables for these relationships? We don't quite know what that looks like.

“But I know behind the scenes officials in the private sector are giving very serious thought to that. And I think we can start to see some of that come out 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 survey by the think-tank Jessep heads.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation’s annual survey released last month 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.

Officials say Luxon is in talks to travel to Delhi in September this year to meet counterpart Narendra Modi. If the trip happens, it would be the first time since 2016 that a New Zealand prime minister would have visited the South Asian giant.

“The first thing we need to see is high-level connectivity,” Jessep says. “So we're going to be looking forward to hosting high-level VIP visitors from India and also sending our leaders to India.”

She also points out New Zealand needs a stronger diplomatic and trade footprint in India to understand what the shared objectives are and “where those areas of strategic priority are aligned”.

“How can we resource and really deliver on those areas of priority? We're going to have to probably pick two or three areas that we think we can really make a difference together and really then invest in those areas.”

Related Posts