Select Page

As New Zealand gears up for its highly anticipated election on October 14, there is a surprising and notable shift in the electoral conversation that has captured the attention of political leaders of both the main parties. India appears to have taken centre stage in the political discourse, with Chris Hipkins of the Labour Party and Christopher Luxon of the National Party, making India a key aspect of their election campaigns.

Less than a year ago, this scenario would have been deemed improbable, but India’s growing prominence on the global stage and its burgeoning diaspora in NZ have reshaped the electoral landscape. The elephant in the room has been well and truly acknowledged, finally.

What has caused this sudden and remarkable transformation? To comprehend the newfound importance of India in NZ’s electoral landscape, it is essential to examine the confluence of several critical factors.

First and foremost, India’s exceptional economic growth has been a significant driver behind its rising influence. In recent years, India has consistently recorded the world’s fastest economic growth rates, surpassing even economic powerhouses like China. This meteoric rise has made India an increasingly attractive partner for trade, investment, and collaboration. Consequently, NZ, like many other nations, has recognized the immense potential of India’s market and its booming agritech sector, albeit rather late.

Labour leader Chris Hipkins’ announcement to invest $100 million into the Venture Capital Fund for agritech underscores the importance of tapping into India’s rapidly expanding agricultural technology market. By prioritising this investment and promising a visit to India within 100 days if elected, Hipkins has signalled the vital role that India could potentially play in NZ’s economic and strategic plans.

Second, China’s economic turbulence and the shifting dynamics in the global geopolitical landscape have also contributed to India’s prominence. As China grapples with economic challenges and increased international scrutiny, countries around the world are diversifying their economic and strategic partnerships. India, with its burgeoning middle class and dynamic economy, has emerged as a viable alternative to China for trade and investment opportunities. This shifting focus on India is not exclusive to NZ but is a global trend reflective of the changing dynamics in international politics and economics.

Third, diplomatic engagement between NZ and India has witnessed a revival in recent times. After a prolonged hiatus, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit to NZ last year marked a significant step in strengthening bilateral relations. Subsequently, NZ’s Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta reciprocated with a visit to India. These high-level exchanges have paved the way for enhanced cooperation in various sectors, including trade, education, and defence.

Such diplomatic overtures have raised the profile of India in NZ and underscored the importance of nurturing this burgeoning relationship. One cannot underestimate the influence of the Indian diaspora in NZ in shaping the electoral conversation. Over the years, the Indian community in NZ has grown significantly and now plays a crucial role in the country’s social, cultural, and economic fabric. With a substantial presence, the Indian diaspora has become a formidable force in influencing voting patterns. The unity of the Indian diaspora in advocating for issues that affect their community, such as law and order concerns, especially the alarming rise of ram raids and migrant exploitation has made their collective voice impossible to ignore. This influence is not limited to any one political party, as both major parties have recognised the importance of addressing these issues to secure the support of the Indian community.

In essence, India was always the elephant in the room in NZ’s political landscape, but it is now impossible to ignore. Its economic prowess, the global spotlight on its growth story, the changing dynamics of global geopolitics, and the active engagement between the two countries have thrust India into the heart of NZ’s electoral conversation.

As New Zealanders prepare to cast their votes on October 14, they do so with a keen awareness of the role that India can potentially play in the nation’s future. The emergence of India as a central figure in the electoral conversation serves as a reminder of the ever-changing geopolitical landscape and the imperative for nations to adapt to these shifts. The days when India was a distant and peripheral concern for NZ are long gone, replaced by a recognition of India’s economic might, diplomatic relevance, and the significant influence of its diaspora. In this rapidly evolving global context, India’s prominence in NZ’s election discourse is not a surprise but a clear reflection of the new world order.

First appeared in the 7 September 2023 edition of the Indian Weekender.