PM addressing Indian community, in Sydney on May 23, 2023
In the past year, we have witnessed various reactions, trade delegations and diplomatic visits in New Zealand that have been influenced by personal interests rather than the larger goals of the Indian Diaspora and our trusted Kiwi friends.
This has created an ongoing identity crisis, especially in comparison to the successes of our neighbouring country, Australia.
Modi’s electrifying address
The recent electrifying evening in Sydney, Australia, highlighted Australia’s political will and strategic thought leadership that was not an overnight miracle but nurtured over the years, starting with the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to Australia in 2014. This visit aimed to establish India’s visibility and strength, leading to significant growth of the Indian population in Australia.
The impact of the visit of Mr Modi’s visit (May 22 to May 24, 2023) was evident in the resounding chants of “Modi, Modi” and the rock star-like presence of India, overshadowing even the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.
We should commend the leadership of Mr Modi, his Office and their efforts, as they provided a voice for all Indians, ensuring that we are heard loud and clear.
This journey of nearly ten years has been worthwhile and should be credited to more than just a few individuals. As Mr Modi said, the relationship between India and Australia goes beyond the 3Cs (Commonwealth, Cricket and Curry) and encompasses mutual trust and respect.
He rightly acknowledged that the real power lies with all Indians living in Australia.
However, it is important for us Kiwi Indians to reflect on the current situation and determine the way forward. We may feel lost amidst the rapid changes and missed opportunities. It is crucial for us to believe in and respect the vision of “One Planet, One Earth, One Future.” We must unite and take bold and beautiful action, rather than being fast and furious, rushing after insignificant gains.
The future is crystal clear for those of us who are willing to see it.
We must understand the changing dynamics between the two nations and appreciate the true essence of humanity. India’s call should be listened to and answered, rather than merely asked for. Investing in India and participating in initiatives such as Make in India will pave the way for a new era of collaboration and growth.
Let us reflect on some issues that use politics outside of politics for pride and prejudice.
Public Funding and usage
The Ethnic Communities Development Fund provides $4.2 million annually to support projects that empower ethnic communities and celebrate their culture.
However, we need to ensure that this money is not just a source of power but also serves a purpose. Therefore, we need to review the ethics and principles governing the allocation of taxpayers’ money and clearly define any potential conflicts to avoid falling into the grey areas of ambiguity.
While New Zealand is known for its generosity, we have also inadvertently marginalised certain groups, particularly within the so-called minority format.
During a recent launch for minority Indians in Auckland, many of us in attendance may have struggled to define ourselves as a minority.
As a woman, a senior citizen, and an outspoken individual, I experienced the true sense of being a marginalised even within the so called minority.
Perhaps this crisis can be viewed as an opportunity to promote unity rather than division, starting at the community and political levels.
Successive Prime Ministers of New Zealand have invited their Indian counterpart (including former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Mr Modi) to visit New Zealand and we are confident that a visit will occur soon.
We look forward to the visit of Mr Modi to New Zealand and a community event such as the one witnessed in Sydney on Tuesday (May 23, 2023) night.
The way ahead
It is presumptuous for some individuals to say that they have invited the Indian Prime Minister and that he has accepted it. Just a few haphazard initiatives under some banner can be misleading and miss the bigger picture.
While the visit of Mr Modi to New Zealand was a missed opportunity, the learning can be far-sighted and collaborative to make the next delegation a source of pride for both India and New Zealand, extending beyond education, technology and tourism.
Mr Modi’s comment on the strength of the Indian economy is worth noting.
He said, “The World Bank believes that if anyone is challenging global headwinds, it is India. The banking system in several countries is in trouble today but the strength of India’s banks are being appreciated everywhere.”
To quote former President, the late Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, “If you want to shine like a sun, first burn like a sun” and “ Let us sacrifice our today so that our children can have a better tomorrow.”
Mallika Janakiraman is a New Zealand registered Nutritionist , Nutrition Business Advisor and a Strategy Consultant with extensive global experience, having worked with international corporate giants. She is the Founder of Wahine Charitable Trust based in Auckland.