India and New Zealand on Wednesday charted a new path to step up bilateral trade and signed four pacts. New Zealand said that it would continue to contribute constructively to the process currently underway in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to consider India’s membership. The two countries also discussed cross-border terrorism and designation of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a proscribed terrorist in the UN Sanctions Committee.
Prime Minister of New Zealand John Key assured his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi that Wellington would back the South Asian country’s NSG membership bid. PM Key made the assurance during his meeting with Modi on Wednesday in New Delhi. Key arrived in India on Tuesday mainly to discuss the country’s NSG membership bid. On the occasion, PM Modi thanked Premier Key for his constructive approach to the consideration of India’s membership in the elite group, saying that ties between the two countries recently moved “from fielding at long off to taking fresh guard at batting pitch”.
In the presence of the two leaders, senior Indian and New Zealand officials signed four agreements on issues pertaining to avoidance of double taxation, co-operation in the field of youth and sport affair and food safety co-operation.
Later, Modi and Key addressed a joint press conference at Hyderabad House in the Indian capital. Speaking at the conference, the Indian premier said: “It is a pleasure to welcome Prime Minister John Key during the festive season. I am thankful to him for adopting a constructive approach to the consideration of India’s membership of NSG. Prime Minister Key and I have had detailed and productive discussions on all aspects of our bilateral engagement and multilateral co-operation. Food processing, dairy and agriculture and related areas in their supply chain are some of the areas of particular potential for co-operation.”
For his part, PM Key said that they felt the need for greater economic engagement between the two countries in order to effectively respond to the growing uncertainties in global economy. “New Zealand is an outward-looking country, focussed on working with other countries right around the world and we have benefited greatly from that approach. Our political relationship has also deepened in a number of areas. New Zealand and India stand together on issues of global concern, such as terrorism and respect for international law. New Zealand supports Indian membership in a reformed UN Security Council, including in any expansion of permanent membership,” he added.
Interestingly, India hosted Prime Minister Key ahead of crucial NSG meeting in Vienna in November. Foreign policy experts believe that it is important for New Delhi to securing Wellington’s support for its NSG membership. Earlier in June, New Zealand had opposed India’s entry into the elite club, saying that it would only back countries which signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). New Zealand had also expressed serious concern over India’s admission, insisting that such a move could adversely affect the non-proliferation regime.
However, the Oceanic country has changed its stand on the issue because of Australia and the US, who have been lobbying for India’s case among NSG members. During his meeting with PM Key, Modi explained that the NSG membership would help India get enhanced and uninterrupted access to nuclear technology, fuel and materials required to expand its civilian nuclear programme.