RECEPTION ON THE OCCASION OF INDIAN REPUBLIC DAY
It is my honour and privilege to join you on India’s Republic Day, to celebrate the world’s largest and most diverse democracy. Today’s celebrations provide a timely occasion to reaffirm the importance both our countries attach to the relationship and to reflect on how we might build on that moving forward.
India matters greatly to New Zealand. We share Commonwealth ties and proud democratic traditions. We are closely bound by migrant ties and New Zealand and India both aspire to delivering greater prosperity and security to our citizens. Our troops fought alongside each other during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915, which is an important part of New Zealand’s cultural identity.
Today New Zealand is home to people from all over India. Over 150,000 people of Indian descent call New Zealand home. Hindi is the fourth-most spoken language in New Zealand, after English, Māori and Samoan. Three MPs of the 120 in the New Zealand Parliament are of Indian-origin. And of course, we have a shared love of hockey and cricket. We were very pleased to host the Indian cricket team last year for the Cricket World Cup and we look forward to the India-New Zealand match during the Indian hosted T20 World Cup in March. I hope that both New Zealand and India’s teams can make the final this year, though of course there can only be one winner!
New Zealand has ambitious goals to develop closer political and economic relations with India, growing our links in goods and services trade, investment, education, skilled migration and tourism. Reflecting this importance, India is New Zealand's most developed trade relationship in South Asia. Our services exports have been growing steadily, with two-way services trade reaching $680 million by September last year, and goods exports to India reaching $639 million. India is now New Zealand’s largest source of skilled migrants and second largest source of international students. We are well on track to receive 50,000 tourist visitors from India in 2016. We also have active working level dialogue in the areas of foreign affairs, finance, education, and science with the Indian Government.
And we were very pleased earlier this year when a new Air Services Agreement was finalised with India, with Air New Zealand and Air India also announcing a codeshare agreement that will provide greater access and closer links between our two countries. Close to 90,000 people currently travel between India and New Zealand every year. With this agreement I hope to see these connections increasing.
Through what it does and achieves, India has the potential to influence the direction and success of the wider Asia-Pacific region, including New Zealand. A successful India will over the next twenty years draw global and regional attention, and commerce, jobs and opportunities.
New Zealand welcomes Prime Minister Modi’s focus on business, his energetic international engagement and ambitious modernisation agenda that has reintroduced India to the world. New Zealand wants to help India with its growth story. We are already seeing some successes in building this relationship between India and New Zealand.
In September, my colleague, Amy Adams led a delegation to India of New Zealand’s emerging clean technology leaders. A number of MOUs between ETI and New Zealand clean technology companies were signed, which is a positive step in diversifying our relationship with India. Through her visit we saw strong interest from India in the innovation and integrity of New Zealand products and services.
In the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, Pipfruit New Zealand is helping to revitalise India’s apple industry. India's apple industry is the fourth largest in the world by volume and the second largest by land area but grower returns are starting to reduce because of ageing trees and disease issues.
A MoU that the Tamil Nadu-based Bannari Amman Institute of Technology (BIT) signed last year with New Zealand Institute of Fashion Technology (NZIFT) has also started delivering benefits spread across the fields of education, design, and manufacturing. Fifteen New Zealand students were offered scholarships for training at BIT last year and they gained insights into the intricacies involved in mass production of textiles, garments, accessories and got a better understanding of Indian value systems.
A number of talented New Zealand writers visited India in 2015 including Booker Prize-winning writer Eleanor Catton, award-winning children’s writer and illustrator Vasanti Unka, and Māori Poet Robert Sullivan. New Zealand was also very pleased to host a number of talented artists from India including folk-dance group Mudra Creation and a puppet troupe led by master puppeteer Mahipat Kavi.
These examples are just a few of the many and growing connections between New Zealand and India. In recognition of this longstanding friendship, it is my privilege, on behalf of the Government of New Zealand, to propose a toast to the Government, the representatives, and the people of India.