H.E. Mr. Rupert Thomas Holborow
The New Zealand High Commissioner to India talks to Asia News Agency about the growing bilateral relations between India and New Zealand
ANA: Excellency, India and New Zealand enjoy cordial and friendly ties bound as they are by the Commonwealth, the English language, cricket and above all, Edmund Hillary. Yet, economic and trade ties between the two countries are not much to talk of. What do you think is coming in the way of exploiting the potential for increasing trade given that New Zealand is an important exporter of coal, timber, wool, hides and skins but its traditional items such as dairy products have failed to access the India market? In which areas do you see India increasing exports to New Zealand?
HE: It is certainly true that India and New Zealand share warm and common bonds based on links such as the Commonwealth, our shared love of cricket and our mutual deep affection for the late-Sir Edmund Hillary. While cricket and Sir Ed served our interests well in the 20th Century they are not adequate to define the sort of links we want to have in the 21st Century. Today we need a broader relationship – one where our exchanges are deeper across the board including in the foreign policy/security fields as well as that relating to trade/commerce. This is beginning to happen – in fact the relationship is transforming rapidly. Trade is increasing quite rapidly as is the two way traffic in tourists. Strong links are emerging in the education field. I think that a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiation, which we hope to embark on soon with India, will provide a good platform to give more depth and substance to our bilateral ties.
ANA: New Zealand’s Trade Minister, Tim Groser, came to New Delhi in February this year and liberalization of trade and Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and New Zealand were high on his list of discussions. Could you shed some light on the proposed FTA?
HE: In 2008 New Zealand and Indian officials undertook a ‘Joint Study’ into the potential to deepen links between us commercially. That report, presented to Ministers Groser and Nath in February, concluded that a Comprehensive Economic Partnership/Free Trade Agreement would be mutually beneficial. Reflecting this report both Ministers endorsed the report and agreed to proceed to formal negotiations once the necessary internal approval processes were completed. New Zealand has completed its processes and India is looking to do so shortly. A negotiation from my perspective would be extremely positive for the relationship. It would promise, over time, to help facilitate bilateral trade flows. But the negotiation itself would also help put a spotlight on the relationship – which I am confident would itself generate more bilateral activity, energy and focus.
ANA: Your country’s Foreign Minister Murray Mcully had condemned the Mumbai attacks as a cowardly act. Excellency, how do you perceive the role of developed countries in dealing with terrorism across the world and especially in the subcontinent?
HE: The New Zealand Government was deeply distressed by the horror of the Mumbai attack. We were fortunate in that we had no New Zealand citizens killed – but there were New Zealanders caught up in the hotels who witnessed the horrors visited upon Indian nationals and others. In this respect, an attack of this nature is not just an attack on India. It is an affront to all civilized people and affirms the value of the international community cooperating closely in an effort to address the underlying causes behind such senseless violence and rooting out those intent on such deeds.
ANA: As compared to 93,000 Indian students in Australia, there are only about 5,000 students in New Zealand. Does your country plan to increase bilateral cooperation in the education sector?
HE: Whilst New Zealand is a smaller economy than Australia (and thus you would expect our numbers to be considerably less) we are regarded as a highly desirable, high quality and cost-competitive market for international students. This is something which has only relatively recently been appreciated by Indian students – with numbers now growing at a very rapid pace. I would expect to see these numbers grow further in the coming period. The New Zealand Government appointed, some 18 months ago, a dedicated Education counselor to the High Commission. This officer has a broad remit – both looking to ensure the policy frameworks for exchanges are suitable as well as looking to deepen institution-to-institution links. This is an exciting are in the bilateral relationship.
ANA: There has been a surge of Indian tourists visiting your country, partly inspired by Bollywood movies being shot in picturesque New Zealand. Excellency, could you enlighten us on the plans to promote people to people and bilateral cultural relations between India and New Zealand?
HE: New Zealand is a country of unsurpassed natural beauty – with a low population base – which has made it an attractive location for film shoots. I hope we will see more Indian movies made in NZ. Publicity from Bollywood movies has certainly been helpful in persuading some 25,000 Indians a year to visit New Zealand. They are very welcome guests. Some go for business. Some simply go to absorb the tranquil unspoilt beauty. Others go for an adrenalin rush be that through eco-tourism (swimming with the seals/whale watching) or more breath-taking adventure tourism (white-water rafting, bungee jumping, zorbing, heli-biking, backwater-rafting, parachuting etc.). And it would be remiss of me not to mention the many visitors who simply go to link up with friends and family – Indian migrants now represent the second largest Asian community in New Zealand after those from China. Recent event such as the successful Indian cricket tour to New Zealand and Preity Zinta bungee-jumping in New Zealand have all been great boosts to giving us profile here in Indian and promoting those people-to-people links.
ANA: Your country holds very strong views on the nuclear issue. In the context of the Indo US civilian nuclear cooperation agreement that has been cleared for nuclear commerce by the NSG, what is the view of New Zealand on the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes especially to meet the energy requirements of developing nations like India?
HE: New Zealand acknowledges the many benefits that can come from the balanced and responsible use of nuclear energy. But we have also been careful to emphasis that the use of nuclear energy must not give rise to concerns regarding the proliferation of nuclear weapons and that the highest standards of safety and security should be observed.