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A new bridge to deliver stronger relations

While bilateral relations between New Zealand and India have taken significant strides in recent years, there is still substantial scope for improvement and engagement in new areas, High Commissioner-Designate Ravi Thapar has said.

Speaking to Indian Newslink from Beirut, he said that he and the Indian High Commission in Wellington would be catalysts in deepening the partnership between the two countries and seeking new avenues for cooperation and coordination for a mutually rewarding relationship.

“We would look to building new bridges of understanding and goodwill within the frameworks of policies and reason, keeping in view the national interest of India. Open to business with all friendly countries of the world, India is well-positioned to promote and sustain long-term relations with New Zealand,” he said.

Positive expansion

Mr Thapar said that he is keen on positive expansion in several areas of engagement in improved bilateral relations, face-to-face relations with government officials,

“Indian associations, business groups and network with the people of India to build new awareness about India and promoting Indo-Kiwi ties,” he said.

Although he has not set foot on our shores before, Mr Thapar said that New Zealand’s reputation as country of natural beauty, warmth and friendliness makes it a great partner for expansion and growth in bilateral areas.

“I look forward to this assignment, hoping to engage in higher levels of understanding bilateral cooperation and improved relations. I hope to encourage more and more members of the Indian Diaspora and New Zealand companies and entrepreneurs to look to India as their business destination,” he said.

The Indian Diaspora

As reported in our columns in the past, India is anxious to shed its image as a country with vested interests in Europe and North America. With almost 600,000 people of Indian origin resident in the Oceanic region, South Pacific in general and Australia, New Zealand and Fiji in particular, would be of strategic importance to India.

New Delhi has always maintained its policy of non-alignment and non-interference in the internal affairs of countries. This policy has paid rich dividends for India.

Fiji is a case in point. While almost all developed countries distanced themselves from Fiji following the military coup which ousted the Laisenia Qarase Government on December 5, 2006, India retained its friendship and bilateral relations with Suva. In addition, a number of Fijians have been honoured by the Indian Government with the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman Award since they were instituted in 2003.

Mr Thapar said that India is no longer focused on North America or Europe.

“We want to look globally to every country in the world- from Latin America to Africa and the South Pacific,” he said.

New synergies

He believes that as agricultural and farming nations, New Zealand and India can build synergies that would spell higher levels of bilateral cooperation.

“India is strong in agriculture with about 52% of its population still engaged in farming for their livelihood. Agriculture continues to be a priority sector, especially because of the growing population and the need to provide people with food and other essential things in their lives. We have world class agriculture, agricultural technology, science and technology. We also celebrate our excellent and extensive marine life, fisheries, oceanography and environment,” he said.

Mr Thapar believes that New Zealand is in a unique position and that the two countries can, by working together, extend the benefits of their expertise to the rest of the world.

Agro-Cooperation

“I am sure that there are several possibilities of strengthening relations between India and New Zealand, particularly in economic and commercial sectors. As the fifth largest economy in the world with Purchasing Power Parity of US$ 1.8 trillion, the benefits of dealing with such an economy are enormous,” he said.

Mr Thapar said friendly countries seeking to strengthen their diplomatic and commercial presence in India are increasingly becoming aware of the country’s competitive advantages in manufacturing.

“India manufactures almost all the products in need, ‘from needles to cars and from sandals to satellites. Our growing expertise in space and nuclear technology has been widely acknowledged,” he said.

Mr Thapar is expected to arrive in New Zealand with his wife Sharmila later in the year but he is already considering strategies and plans for a more meaningful engagement with his host Government, businesses and the Indian Diaspora, which he described as the ‘greatest resource’ for positive connections.

Photo Captin:

Ravi Thapar at an event in Beirut, Lebanon

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