India, New Zealand for closer cooperation for free and open Indo-Pacific.

India and New Zealand on Tuesday agreed to cooperate for a rules-based world order and a free and inclusive Indo-Pacific region during their foreign office consultations.

The consultations, held virtually after a gap of more than two years because of the Covid-19 pandemic, reviewed bilateral cooperation and focused on steps to enhance engagement in key areas such as defence and security, trade and investment, counter-terrorism and climate change.

The consultations were held against the backdrop of New Zealand’s foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta warning that the country could find itself at the heart of a “storm” of anger from China, and that exporters need to diversify to ensure they can survive deteriorating relations with Beijing.

Both sides exchanged views on regional issues and “reiterated the importance of closer cooperation for a rules-based international order and a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region”, the external affairs ministry said in a readout.

The response to the pandemic and access to vaccines and medicines for containing Covid-19 globally were also discussed by officials of the two countries.

The two sides further discussed ways to strengthen coordination in multilateral and regional forums and carried out a comprehensive review of bilateral cooperation. They also discussed steps to “enhance the depth and momentum of engagement in different areas including defence and security, trade and investment, space, counterterrorism, cyber security, disarmament and climate change, and for strengthening people-to-people ties”, the readout said.

The Indian side at the virtual meeting was led by Riva Ganguly Das, secretary (East) in the external affairs ministry, while the New Zealand delegation was led by Mark Sinclair, deputy secretary for the Americas and Asia group in the foreign ministry. The previous round of consultations was held in New Delhi in February 2019.

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, New Zealand’s foreign minister said the country couldn’t ignore what was happening in the Australia-China relationship. “And if they are close to an eye of the storm or in the eye of the storm, we’ve got to legitimately ask ourselves – it may only be a matter of time before the storm gets closer to us,” Mahuta said.

Her comments came against the backdrop of Australia’s intensifying trade war with China and growing pressure on New Zealand to take a firmer stance on human rights violations and crackdowns by China.

Mahuta added: “The signal I’m sending to exporters is that they need to think about diversification in this context – Covid-19, broadening relationships across our region, and the buffering aspects of if something significant happened with China.” she asked.

Source- Hindustan Times.

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