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Feckless comments do not harm friendship

The first Indians arrived in New Zealand almost 110 years ago.

Those brave Indians were the original bush cutters. They lived through harsh times but turned the useless bush areas into what we see today as thriving farms.

Some of them have been running dairies and many New Zealanders are even today thankful to these convenience stores, run by hard working people 24/7.

Indians today are not only successful farmers exporting produce but also running various businesses in manufacturing, exporting, retailing and wholesaling sectors, apart from being successful professionals.

They are a vital part of the infrastructure of this great Nation.

The country’s maturity as a multi-cultural society saw the appointment of a person of Fiji-Indian origin as the Governor General in August 2006, while we have had a number of people of minority communities raising the New Zealand flag in various fields. They include David Tua (Boxing), Valarie Vill (Gold Medalist at the 2008 Olympics and 2010 Commonwealth Games), Deepak Patel (Cricket) and Irene van Dyk (Netball).

In my opinion, a New Zealander is one who belongs to this country in heart and soul with a New Zealand Passport.

As a country known for its cultural plurality, it was with disbelief that I heard the comments of Paul Henry on his television programme last month. I was reminded of the fact that every nation has a few people who are intolerant towards the progress of minority population.

Conversely, it was equally wrong for many of us to think that the Government and the Prime Minister should have intervened and terminated the services of Mr Henry. Such things do not happen in New Zealand; rightly so.

Let not a stray incident of a broadcaster cast any doubt about the greatness of the people of this country we call home. Kiwis are by far the most tolerant and hospitable people in the world.

It would be equally fallacious to believe that such isolated incidents would affect the bilateral and people-to-people relationship. Indo-Kiwis relationship has been built on mutual respect and trust. The two great democracies and our leaders are aware of the need to create a more congenial environment for cross-border trade and investment.

The proposed visit of Prime Minister John Key to India next year would strengthen our bilateral ties and perhaps quicken the pace of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement.

Indian New Zealanders will continue to enjoy equal opportunity in this country.

I am sure that this nation will continue to benefit from the sincerity, hard work and entrepreneurial skills of the Indian community.

Dr Anil Channa is a medical practitioner with several years of experience in India and New Zealand. Formerly President of the New Zealand Overseas Doctors Association and Manukau Indian Association, he is the Chairman of the Botany Electorate of National Party.

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