Foundation executive director Mr Simon Draper will be heading the delegation, which includes Prof Sekhar Bandyopadhyay (Director, New Zealand India Research Institute); Dr Manjeet Pardesi (Senior Lecturer, Political Science and International Relations Programme, Centre for Strategic Studies at Victoria University of Wellington); Dr Kate McMillan (Senior Lecturer in Comparative Politics, Victoria University of Wellington); Abbas Nazari (Asia New Zealand Foundation Leadership Network Member); and Dr James To (Senior Advisor Research, Asia New Zealand Foundation).
“The Asia-Pacific region is facing myriad challenges and India’s response will be consequential for New Zealand in terms of economic prosperity or security,” says Mr Draper.
“There are several ways forward, and it is important New Zealand understands what is driving India’s responses. The best way to get that understanding is face to face.”
The Foundation published research in 2016 which looked at ways India and New Zealand could deepen connectivity beyond ‘cricket, climbing and the Commonwealth’.
“One of the ways we can do this is to engage in a free and frank conversation on the many foreign policy, security and trade challenges facing India and New Zealand, and Track II – or informal diplomacy, with think tanks – helps support this engagement.”
Mr Draper says the visit also serves as a useful opportunity to find out what’s framing Delhi’s current domestic and international policies.
“We want to hear our Indian colleagues’ thoughts on issues that impact on us. For instance, when they talk about trade, does New Zealand matter? And when it comes to regional security, how does India view New Zealand’s engagement in the region? We also want to share our thoughts on why we prefer ‘Asia-Pacific’ over ‘Indo-Pacific’,” Mr Draper says.
Engagement with India’s diaspora is a priority for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration. New Zealand’s Indian community numbers around 170,000, the second largest Asian ethnic group in the country. The Track II delegation also aims to find out how people-to-people links can play an important role in building the relationship between the two countries.