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Pacts signal closer Indo-Kiwi ties

From all points of view, the recent visit of Prime Minister John Key and his delegation to India would be hailed as a landmark in the history of bilateral relations between the two countries.

In the immediate context, two formal agreements signed during the visit, along with the decision for closer defence cooperation will cement political and economic ties.

While the establishment of an Education Council with joint funding by the two Governments would bolster higher education and research, the Film Co-Production Agreement will make New Zealand an attractive destination for film producers from Bollywood and other film producing centres in India.

Although the joint funding of $1 million a year would be largely insufficient to tap into the education and research sector valued at billions of dollars, it is at least a good beginning. The nature of the Council’s work is yet to be worked out or perhaps announced, but it has the potential to grow with the participation of private education providers in the future.

The Agreement on film production has some interesting possibilities. A number of private sector companies are engaged in delivering high-end technology film processing services, which would enhance the quality of Indian films. At some stage, the New Zealand Government would do well to encourage these companies to engage more closely with film producers in India. The Agreement has the potential to boost the industry in New Zealand, provide additional jobs and encourage more investment.

Mr Key appears to have scored well with the Indian Government with his hands-on and pragmatic approach to a few thorny issues, not the least of which pertain to India’s efforts to augment production at its nuclear power plants and its desire to seek permanent membership at the UN Security Council.

There were indications at the conclusion of Mr Key’s visit to Delhi that his Government would continue to support waivers for supply of uranium through the Nuclear Supply Group. He and his Indian counterpart Dr Manmohan Singh asserted that the two countries will work together for a nuclear-free world, which could mean nuclear disarmament. India has made it clear on more than one occasion that it has never been an aggressor and that its pile up of arms has been necessitated by its hostile neighbours. No one would deny the fact that India is a peace-loving nation but has the right to protect its territorial integrity and political sovereignty.

The visit has also furthered New Delhi’s enhanced ‘Look East Policy.’ India is keen to get closer to the countries in the Oceania region, seeking a more intense cooperation in South Pacific. The Indian Government apparently sees New Zealand, though small in size, as a nation with considerable influence in the region.

These and several other factors augur well for a closer Indo-Kiwi working relationship. What is now needed is the larger participation of the private sector in both countries.

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