NZIRI is planning to conduct a Symposium on ‘Looking at India from the South Pacific’, in August this year. The symposium will be in the format of dialogue with the experts. It will be of interest to all our stake holders, like MFAT, Asia New Zealand Foundation, NZ Defence, India-New Zealand Business Council, as well as academics in other NZ universities. Its main purpose will be to prepare an ‘India capable’ public sector, as well as civil society in NZ.
India, in terms of its economic weight as well as strategic importance, is now a major power in the Asia-Pacific region. In 2017, the Moody’s upgraded India’s credit rating; the World Bank raised its rank for ease of doing business, while the IMF Chief praised India for its economy being on ‘solid track’.
India’s growing closeness to USA, her persisting tensions with China, and her increasing strategic presence in what she defines as the ‘Indo-Pacific’ region, make her an important part of the security architecture of this region. In three countries – Australia-New Zealand-Fiji – inhabit an Indian Diaspora of more than one million people. India remains keenly interested in this diasporic population.
This explains why Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was so enthusiastic about her meeting with Prime Minister Modi on the side line of the East Asia Summit in Manila in November 2017. In a subsequent press conference, Ardern expressed in no uncertain words her keenness to take the Indo-NZ relations to its next level. But there are also challenges on the way, as India is often more complex than it appears to be.
While India’s burgeoning middle class remains optimistic about economic growth, jobs and prosperity, the actual growth rate has slowed down in recent years. The government has invited foreign capital, mainly in the manufacturing sector. But there is a lingering reluctance to open up its markets for trade, particularly in the agricultural sector. India has not signed any FTA since 2012 and New Zealand’s efforts to negotiate one have not made expected progress.
In the realm of foreign and security policies too, India and New Zealand have some significant areas of difference, such as India’s definition of the ‘Indo-Pacific region’ and its security architecture, and the place of China in that space.
Politically, India has witnessed some uncertainties in recent years, marked by a variety of dissenting voices concerned about the growing sense of insecurity of the minorities and depressed social groups like Dalits, attacks on press freedom, crackdown on NGOs and civil society, and violence against women. But the ruling party BJP’s popularity remains undented, as it has recently won a few key provincial elections, most importantly in the largest north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.
So it will possibly be worthwhile at this juncture to have a dialogue with some experts who can comment on India’s recent economic developments, its position on security issues in the Pacific region, its evolving trade policy, and the current state of India’s democracy, society and systems of governance.
To help NZ’s policy planners, business communities, and interested general public to understand and interpret these complex – often contradictory - economic, social and political developments in today’s India, the NZIRI proposes to host an international symposium.
It proposes to invite four top academic experts from across the world as keynote speakers on four sub-themes: (1) economy, (2) politics and governance, (3) foreign policy and security issues, (4) social development. We will also invite some scholars from New Zealand and Australia to speak alongside the international experts.
The symposium will be in the format of dialogue with the experts. It will be of interest to all our stake holders, like MFAT, Asia New Zealand Foundation, NZ Defence, India-New Zealand Business Council, as well as academics in other NZ universities. Its main purpose will be to prepare an ‘India capable’ public sector, as well as civil society in NZ.
The Council of Victoria University of Wellington (VUW) on 29 October 2012 established the New Zealand India Research Institute (NZIRI). Administratively located at Victoria, it is a consortium of seven universities of New Zealand, i.e., VUW, the University of Auckland, Auckland University of Technology, Massey University, University of Canterbury and Otago University.
It was planned as a ‘National Centre of Indian Studies’ in New Zealand, with more than forty academics engaged in research on India in these seven universities becoming its Fellows. Professor Sekhar Bandyopadhyay of VUW was appointed Director.