People links central to the New Zealand-India relationship

A new report from the Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whītau Tūhono highlights the dynamic connections between New Zealand and India – and outlines plenty of opportunities to grow the relationship further.

The report India and New Zealand: Our story, our future describes the shared interests between the two countries, and points to the fundamental role that strong people-to-people relationships play.

“Our growing Indian diaspora has transformed the cultural landscape of New Zealand and made a strong contribution to our economy and business dealings with India,” writes report author Graeme Waters, a former New Zealand High Commissioner to India.

Mr Waters wrote an earlier version of the report for the Foundation in 2016. Because of its popularity – the report quickly needed a reprint – and the continued growth of the India-New Zealand relationship, the Foundation decided to commission an update for 2020.

India is the second most populous country and the fifth largest economy globally and has incredible diversity across its many states and territories. It sits in the heart of South Asia, but it is increasingly playing a part in regional and global affairs, including in the Pacific.

India and New Zealand: Our story, our future tells the story of how New Zealand and India’s relationship has grown and includes case studies of New Zealanders and Indians working in partnership across a range of sectors including arts, education, literature, media, business and innovation, military, politics, and sport.

In his report, Mr Waters also highlights plenty of potential in the India-New Zealand economic relationship, with two-way trade in goods and services approaching the NZ$3 billion mark. This is despite no free trade agreement between the two countries.

“A key issue for India, in both bilateral and regional trade negotiations, is its dairy market and protecting sensitive agricultural categories,” Mr Waters writes. “India tends to argue that it has come off second best in its trade deals. New Zealand has traditionally been an advocate for trade liberalisation and unwilling to compromise on agriculture access.”

A deal for India on RCEP, let alone a bilateral FTA, could galvanise trade and investment. “This would help with the transfer of expertise and technology in areas such as horticulture and agriculture” Mr Waters says.

Asia New Zealand Foundation Director of Engagement and Research Suzannah Jessep, who previously served as New Zealand’s Deputy High Commissioner to India, says the report is part of the Foundation’s wider research programme helping grow New Zealanders’ understanding of Asian countries.

"India is the only major Asian economy with which New Zealand does not currently have an FTA in some form. The strength of the bilateral relationship is testament to the individuals in both countries who have built connections, some over many years. India is a country that takes time to understand. That’s why government-to-government engagement is so critical. We have to invest the time to understand India, and where the opportunities lie for New Zealand," she says.

“When it comes to India, immigration issues and international education have tended to dominate the headlines in New Zealand in recent years. This report shines a light on the breadth and depth of the relationship – everything from film and fashion, to baggage handling systems and innovations for auto rickshaws, to partnerships in the dairy and fruit industries.

Ms Jessep says the Asia New Zealand Foundation offers a range of programmes and activities to strengthen New Zealanders’ understanding of India, including arts initiatives, internships for students and graduates in Indian companies, Track II (informal diplomacy engagement), and through support of public festivals such as Diwali Festival of Lights.

The report also outlines shared interests the two countries have in regional stability and security. Both fall within the concept of the Indo-Pacific region. “New Zealand and India have a long history of cooperation in regional groupings, and many shared interests. To put it another way, we now belong to many of the same clubs. We have an equal stake in our region’s stability, security and prosperity.”

Mr Waters also suggests a range of potential scholarships that could continue to grow the connections between the two countries, including in agribusiness, adventure tourism and fashion. Some key points from India and New Zealand: Our story, our future

Indian immigration to New Zealand dates back to the 19th century; but has diversified and grown substantially in recent decades. At the time of the 2018 Census, about 220,000 New Zealanders identified as being of Indian ethnicity – nearly five percent of the population. With these demographic changes has come a discernible impact on New Zealand’s arts, culture, media and politics.

Air services are “critical” to the New Zealand-India relationship, helping New Zealand’s international education and tourism markets. The 2016 Air Services Agreement has delivered better connectivity but is “still short of providing all the connections and flexibility needed to service the India-New Zealand relationship in the decade ahead”, Waters writes.

In the past decade, tourist numbers in each direction have more than doubled. In 2018, about 30,000 Indian tourists came to New Zealand, and total short-term visitor numbers were nearly 68,000 (including short-term students and family visits).

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment [MBIE] forecasts that Indian visitor numbers will grow to 125,000 by 2025 – if air services also grow.

India is New Zealand’s second largest education market. International student numbers from India have cooled slightly in recent years after a period of rapid growth – reflecting a “conscious shift from quantity to quality”, Waters writes. Overall Indian student numbers have dropped to just over 20,000 – but the number of university students has grown to nearly 2000.

For more information contact:

Director of communications and media Rebecca Palmer:

04 470 8701