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The recent survey conducted by the Asia New Zealand Foundation, which identifies India as the third most crucial country for New Zealand’s future, underscores a pressing need for our government to rejuvenate and strengthen our bilateral relations. As awareness grows among Kiwis of India’s expanding global influence and economic strength, it is imperative that New Zealand seizes this momentum to forge a more robust partnership with this South Asian powerhouse.

Over the past decade, despite India’s remarkable economic growth and increasing global prominence, trade between our nations has paradoxically declined. This trend is at odds with global patterns where countries are actively enhancing their economic engagements with India. New Zealand cannot afford to remain stagnant in this evolving global landscape. It is crucial for us to align ourselves with the global trend and harness the opportunities presented by India’s dynamic growth trajectory.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, now in his third term, India has emerged as not only the world’s fastest-growing major economy but also a leader in sectors like fintech, cyber technology, artificial intelligence, and renewable energy. These advancements present substantial opportunities for collaboration between our nations.

The significant cultural ties forged through Indian immigration to New Zealand provide a solid foundation for deeper bilateral engagement. The Indian diaspora in New Zealand is vibrant and growing, contributing to our multicultural tapestry and fostering personal and professional connections that can be leveraged for stronger bilateral relations.

The survey findings serve as a wake-up call for policymakers. A notable 58 per cent of New Zealanders now view India as crucial to our future, marking a significant shift from previous perceptions. Additionally, 12 per cent of respondents believe India will become the most influential Asian country in the next two decades, highlighting the urgency for a strategic re-evaluation and deepened cooperation. This growing recognition among the New Zealand public is a signal that our government must not ignore.

Suzannah Jessep, Chief Executive of the Asia New Zealand Foundation, rightly underscores the anticipation of India’s multifaceted influence, spanning economic, cultural, and technological domains. As New Zealand seeks to diversify its international partnerships and reduce dependency on traditional allies, India emerges as a pivotal strategic partner. Diversifying our international relationships is not just a strategic choice but a necessity in an increasingly multipolar world. India’s rising influence and economic clout make it an indispensable partner for New Zealand.

The New Zealand government must act decisively to capitalise on this shifting public sentiment. This entails not only revitalising trade relations but also fostering collaborations in education, technology, and cultural exchanges. New Zealand’s expertise in agriculture and renewable energy, for instance, complements India’s technological innovations and growing market demand. Collaborative efforts in these sectors can lead to significant advancements and mutual benefits. For instance, New Zealand’s agricultural technologies can help enhance India’s agricultural productivity, while India’s advancements in renewable energy can contribute to New Zealand’s sustainability goals.

In a rapidly evolving global landscape, characterised by shifting geopolitical dynamics, New Zealand cannot afford complacency. Strengthening ties with India is not just prudent but essential for the country’s future prosperity and resilience. The time to intensify engagement is now, before other nations fully capitalise on the opportunities India presents. New Zealand’s strategic interests and economic prosperity are intertwined with India’s growth and global ascent.

The Asia New Zealand Foundation’s survey serves not only as a gauge of public sentiment but also as a strategic blueprint for New Zealand’s future. As Kiwis, we must urge the government to redouble efforts in cultivating a dynamic and mutually beneficial relationship with India. Embracing this opportunity will not only strengthen bilateral ties but also secure a prosperous and resilient future for New Zealand. The time for action is now, and the rewards of a strengthened New Zealand-India partnership will be significant for generations to come.

 

First appeared in the 20 June 2024 issue of the Indian Weekender