There’s no substitute to boots on the ground when it comes to getting a real feel of the place. And when you have a local chaperoning you around, so much the better in helping you familiarise yourself with the sights, sounds, smells and the dynamics of the place. That is what National Party List Member of Parliament Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi did for his parliamentary party colleagues. Mr Bakshi accompanied a delegation comprising National Party leader and Leader of the Opposition Simon Bridges and MP Gerry Brownlee, Opposition Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs. Mr Bakshi replied to Kia Ora India’s questions on their recent trip to northern India.
What was the purpose of the trip?
Hon Simon Bridges – Leader of the Opposition, myself as the first Indian born New Zealand Member of Parliament and Gerry Brownlee – Opposition spokesperson on Foreign Affairs visited India to gain person insights in to India, its people and its business to understand the potential that India holds for New Zealand. We waiver the New Zealand flag to say that we are keen on building strong relationship with India.
Who were the members of the delegation?
Hon Simon Bridges – Leader of the Opposition, myself as the first Indian born New Zealand Member of Parliament and Gerry Brownlee – Opposition spokesperson on Foreign Affairs.
What were the highlights of the trip both in terms of official meetings and experiencing India culturally and as a visitor for Mr Bridges?
During our trip we had the opportunity to meet and interact with the Indian Foreign Minister Shri Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, Minister of State Commerce and Industry Shri Som Parkash, Minister of Water Resources, Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, and the Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Shri Thaawarchand Gehlot along with a number of Indian Government Officials.
We also met with members of FICCI – The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry to understand areas of cooperation between New Zealand and Indian business and industry.
Simon, Gerry and I had the opportunity to visit the Akshardham Temple in Delhi and the Golden Temple in Amritsar.
We also visited Binsar Farms, in Sonipat a town neighbouring Delhi. Binsar farms is established using the New Zealand model of dairy production, they have over 300 cows producing 7,000 litres of milk a day. Milk is supplied directly to the consumers without any intermediary. The founders of Binsar Farms have received cooperation from the local dairy farmers and are working on a dairy cooperative similar to what we have in New Zealand.
In Delhi, in addition to meetings Simon also played Cricket with youngsters.
What were the key outcomes in terms of the official discussions and interactions?
Visits such as the ones we took to India are strategic and undertaken with a long term view. Our objectives were to engage and make progress on my previous relationship building initiatives with the Government and people of India. There are a number of opportunities for people and businesses to engage in towards creating mutually win-win situations. We were able to achieve valuable engagement and have subsequent visits planned in case we are able to form government in 2020
How do you think New Zealand should step up its engagement with India, especially in trade?
New Zealand businesses have engaged positively with India over the past years. This is visible in quantum of trade between the two nation states. Given the size of India there is much more to engage and benefit from. A relationship building and long term approach will ensure New Zealand business reap rich benefits for a long time hence more people to people contact, more strategic and timely visits of trade delegations from New Zealand and India will help build momentum
With India opting out of RCEP, how will NZ progress its trade arrangements with India?
RCEP is only one of the many platforms that we are keen to engage with India on. It is unfortunate that India has decided to not proceed. We acknowledge their concerns and look forward to hearing India more closely.
Our hope is we can persuade India to join RCEP. It will 16 members who have great opportunities to trade and establish a one of its kind trading block covering a large section of the global population.
As we work with India on RCEP, we will also continue to pursue a bilateral trade agreement with India.
What were the best ‘Kodak moments’ that yourself and Mr Bridges shared in India especially in Delhi?
I think it was when Simon played cricket with youngsters in India. Cricket is India’s favourite sport and New Zealand loves it too.