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Now over to the Private Sector

It is a long established tradition that Governments initiate bilateral relationship and the private sector extends it for mutual benefit. Trade flourishes with business-to-business and people-to-people contacts, fostered by exchange of goods, services and technology.

On such a score, relations between New Zealand and India are on the threshold of change – change for the better.

The business delegation that accompanied Prime Minister John Key to India last fortnight had a unique opportunity to interact with investors, traders, wholesalers, retailers and service providers, brought together by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Associated Chambers of Commerce of India (ASSOCHAM) and the PHD (Punjab, Haryana and Delhi) Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Over a series of business sessions, luncheons and dinners in Delhi and Mumbai, they had occasions to explore possibilities of promoting each other’s interests.

While the credit for bringing these organisations together for the first time belongs to the India New Zealand Business Council (INZBC) and its Chairman Wenceslaus Anthony, the responsibility for utilising the existing and emerging opportunities rest with the businesses, either individually or on a collective basis in both countries.

According to official sources, the Indian Government is to invest $US 1.5 trillion on infrastructure development over the next five years. These would include new airports, upgrading existing facilities, roads, universities and many other utilities needed by the burgeoning population. There are therefore opportunities for almost all sectors of the New Zealand economy to engage in India.

The much-discussed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two countries is also likely to be put on fast track. Both sides understand each other’s needs and constraints, which should help reach an accord early. Even so, there would be many imponderables that should be overcome.

New Zealand’s business community, led by the INZBC, should shoulder greater responsibility in tapping the rich potential that India offers in its quest for progress and prosperity. India’s services revolution has dazzled businesses in the rich world, turning Indian companies into global competitors and backwater cities such as Hyderabad and Bangalore into affluent, sophisticated technology centres. Modernisation runs from agriculture through manufacturing and only later to services. Now some have broken ranks.

The logic supporting the conventional path towards an advanced economy is straightforward. As India demonstrates, manufacturing can also accelerate development because its output can be exported to rich countries.

From such a standpoint, Mr Key’s visit could become a watershed in the history of relations between New Zealand and India.

It is now up to the private sector to reap the benefits.

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