No other Indian prime minister has worked so extensively in building international relations than Modi – and one of his primary agendas has been attracting trade and investments. While one could debate Modi’s success rate in his efforts in the past 4 years since he took office, notable is the fact that he has visited 59 countries on 41 foreign trips across six continents, including the visits to the United States to attend UN general assembly.
However, New Zealand is missing from the list. Of course, in 2016, the then New Zealand Prime Minister John Key met his Indian counterpart at Hyderabad House in New Delhi where the two statesmen agreed to improve trade dialogue, and improve ties to fight terrorism.
President Key appreciated India’s support for the former’s campaign for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The two prime ministers to continue to work on issues of mutual interest.
But there was little progress on improving trade between the two countries. Since then, New Zealand’s current prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, met Modi in Manilla in November 2017, where the two leaders were meeting for the first time, and invited each other to visit their respective countries.
They also discussed the possibility of improving relations. The other typical “conversation starters” were Bollywood movies shot in NZ, the Indian Diaspora living Down Under, Sir Edmund Hillary, and of course, cricket.
While it is too early to comment on this, given the past experience, not much can be expected to come further from this dialogue.
There are speculations that the Indian prime minister may visit New Zealand this year. But with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections just a few months away, this is unlikely. And even if he visits New Zealand, it is unlikely that any major decisions will be taken in a hurry.
The typical business sectors where both the countries could benefit from would be information technology – especially in the area of artificial intelligence where India has a talent pool, biotechnology where New Zealand has technical expertise, and of course, the entertainment industry with New Zealand’s known province in Computer Generated Imagery and special effects.
The question is, will the respective statesmen prioritize business interests over political and other priorities?