New High Commission building billed as ‘Hub of Indian Diaspora’

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Indian Associations offered free access to the Community Centre

An artist’s impression of the new building (under construction) of the Indian High Commission in Wellington (Warren and Mahoney)

Venkat Raman
Auckland, February 1, 2022

Registered Associations and Societies catering to people of Indian origin would have free access to the Community Centre being constructed as a part of the new Indian High Commission Building in Pipitea in Wellington.

India’s High Commissioner Muktesh Pardeshi said that the Centre, along with other facilities and services will make the Indian Mission the cultural and social platform of the Indian Diaspora. The $80 million multiple complex is nearing completion and is likely to become operational over the next two months.

The possibility of its inauguration by India’s External Affairs Minister Dr Subrahmanyam Jaishankar will depend on several factors, not the least of which is the opening of the border and the need for international travellers to spend time in MIQ.

He was speaking at an online Discussion organised by Indians Living in Auckland Facebook Group, Indian Newslink and the Wellington-based Indian High Commission on Saturday, January 29, 2022.

“We would have facility for the various States of India (especially those represented by people in New Zealand) to showcase their artefacts and culture within the Community Centre. This Centre will also be available for Associations to conduct their Annual General Meeting and programmes catering to about 300 people, while those keen on conducting music and dance classes will also be welcome,” he said.

India’s President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh at the 73rd Republic Day celebrations in Rajpath, New Delhi on January 26, 2022 (PMO Photo)

Republic Day Celebrations

Mr Pardeshi said that most Associations had to cancel their Republic Day programmes on or about January 26, 2022, because of the existing restrictions on the number of people attending indoor public events but the small gathering at his (High Commission) residence was held as planned. He said that among the highlights of the event held on January 26 was the unfurling of the Indian National Flag, the release of three publications and the Republic Day Message of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind.

An initiative of the Indian High Commission, Wellington (HC Photo)

“The publications included (1) 101 Maori Proverbs translated into Hindi as a step towards better understanding by the community (2) 24-page booklet on exports from India to New Zealand and (3) A comprehensive list of 200 Organisations, Temples, Gurdwaras and the Indian Media. The second, revised edition will be published in the second half of the year. Our efforts to enhance bilateral relations, promote business and people contacts and deliver services to the people of various communities continue,” Mr Pardeshi said.

No Amnesty possible

Answering a question Amnesty for overstayers, he ruled out the possibility.

“We are in favour of safe and legal migration but we cannot encourage people staying in the country illegally. We may not be able to help such people. I encourage them to regularise their stay,” he said and cited the example of the United States of America where a court struck down the President’s proposal to grant amnesty to overstayers from India.

A group of students wearing protective masks at a railway station in Kochi, Kerala on March 10, 2020 (Reuters Picture by V Sivaram)

Wrong message to students

Answering a question on international students, Mr Pardeshi said that in its anxiety to increase student numbers, Education New Zealand and its agents operating in India make ‘false promises’ of granting them jobs and permanent resident status after graduation.

“Students in India should understand that there is no connectivity between student visas and permanent residence. Immigration New Zealand has cautioned Education New Zealand not to ‘oversell New Zealand’ to international students. There is no pathway to residence or automatic conversion,” he said.

On the protest meetings held by New Zealand Indians over some legislations passed by the Indian Parliament, Mr Pardeshi said that he was not worried.

An initiative of the Indian High Commission, Wellington (HC Photo)

“As High Commissioner, I represent the largest democracy in the world. We do not see any problem or take any issues with these protest meetings so long as they are within the sanctity of democracy. A group of migrant workers stranded in India marched to the New Zealand High Commission in New Delhi to express their anguish and suffering. Everyone has the right to seek redressal of their grievances. Ultimately, every government has the sovereign right to issue or refuse visas,” he said.

Mr Pardeshi affirmed the rights of people to express their thoughts and opinions freely and openly in a democracy but cautioned against crossing limits of decency. He referred to the recent public narratives on Hindutva and Hinduism that has tended to divide the community.

“We must maintain Indianness and harmony. India is a diverse country with patience and tolerance towards all,” he said.

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