Venkat Raman in New Delhi –
The Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi with the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Mr. John Key, at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi on October 26, 2016.
Prime Minister John Key returned home last weekend after a two-day visit to Delhi bringing a bag full of goodwill and optimism although he would have desired a more substantial content.
Despite much rhetoric, a ‘Full and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement’ remains an objective with India cold-shouldering the concept. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured that his government would vigorously towards a ‘Closer Economic Relationship’ with New Zealand.
“We agreed that actions by both governments should also promote greater business connectivity, including through movement of skilled professionals between our two economies and societies. In this regard, we have agreed to continue to work closely towards an early conclusion of a balanced and mutually beneficial Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA),” Mr Modi said, speaking to the media at Hyderabad House in Delhi on October 26 after official level talks between the two governments.
Mr Key told the media delegation that accompanied him to India at almost all stand-up meetings that he remained positive that India would eventually agree to a full-scale FTA and that the Indian way of approaching the subject was through a CECA.
There are several common factors that bind New Zealand and India, the least of which is the Commonwealth platform. Economic ties have a way of connecting through political bifocals and this is where the two countries are yet to see eye-to-eye. There are four main issues that impede progress – the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), India’s Membership to the UN Security Council as a Permanent Member and of course Tariff-free export of agricultural and dairy products from New Zealand.
Officials in Delhi said that India failed to get an outright statement of support from New Zealand for its bid to become a member of NSG but the Modi government ‘felt encouraged’ by the discussions.
India’s membership bid failed to make headway in June this year in Seoul, but the new South Korean Chairperson of the Group had mandated outgoing Argentine Chairperson Rafael Grossi to speak to all NSG members to discuss the way forward so that India’s case could be taken up later this year.
Mr Grossi is expected to address the Consultative Group on what his efforts in conjunction with India to build a consensus have yielded so far.
On the positive side, the two governments agreed to do a number of things together.
We have analysed the remaining issues under Homelink and in our Leader appearing under Viewlink in this edition.
Venkat Raman was a part of the Media delegation that accompanied Prime Minister John Key during his official visit to India from October 25 to October 28, 2016
Hands of Friendship: John Key with Narendra Modi at Hyderabad House on October 26 (Picture by Indian Newslink)