EAM Jaishankar flags problems faced by students trying to return to New Zealand
Jaishankar said he had raised the predicament of Indian students who had to leave New Zealand during the Covid-19 pandemic and didn’t have the opportunity to get their visas renewed
India and New Zealand on Thursday discussed the security situation in the Indo-Pacific and the fallout of the Ukraine conflict, even as external affairs minister S Jaishankar raised the issue of problems being faced by Indian students in travelling to New Zealand.
Jaishankar, the first Indian foreign minister to visit New Zealand since 2001, held talks with his counterpart Nanaia Mahuta on bilateral relations and a wide range of global issues.
At a joint news conference after the talks, Mahuta described India as “one of the most important partners” for New Zealand.
“There was a very open discussion on how India and New Zealand together will shape the… Indo-Pacific region. There was a discussion on some current, some pressing issues like the security situation in the Indo-Pacific, the consequences of the Ukraine conflict and naturally we spent some time on the major global issues, most of all climate action, climate justice,” Jaishankar said.
Mahuta added that the two sides discussed a range of opportunities for expanding their relationship in defence and security cooperation, people-to-people links, sports and cultural links and new areas such as climate change and sustainable agriculture.
Jaishankar said he had raised the predicament of Indian students who had to leave New Zealand during the Covid-19 pandemic and didn’t have the opportunity to get their visas renewed, as well as students waiting to come to the country to pursue their studies. He sought “fairer and more sympathetic treatment” for these students and the hastening of the visa process for them.
Mahuta added, “I’ve given the minister an undertaking that the concerns he has raised, we have registered and will take that back to our minister of immigration.”
The two sides also discussed the mobility of professionals and Jaishankar said there are demands in New Zealand “which could be met out of India”. The two countries have mobility understandings with many countries and there is a possibility those “could serve as guidance for progress between us”, he said.
Mahuta pointed out that New Zealand’s immigration minister has signalled that an impending “immigration reset will need to consider where we are now and how we look at immigration settings to support some of the challenges that we have”, such as a skill shortage in some key areas and need for workforce in specific industries.
“In a more strategic sense, our immigration reset enables the full consideration of how we are able to bring in people to New Zealand or securing talent to New Zealand and then [ensuring] there is a pathway to citizenship,” she said.
Both ministers said a free trade agreement is currently not a priority for the two countries. “However, that hasn’t stopped us from trying to find ways where there are other opportunities to work together, to derive mutual benefit in terms of economic relationships,” Mahuta said.
Jaishankar said both sides felt the best way of pursuing economic opportunities is to encourage more business collaborations.
“At the moment, the focus, the priority would be on enhancing business collaboration,” he said.
Responding to a question on the activities of “fringe elements” in New Zealand affecting bilateral ties, Jaishankar said, “Democratic societies need to be cognisant of the possibilities that the very freedoms that define them can be misused. They need to be sensitive to that, they need to be aware, particularly when it impacts other relationships.”
New Zealand, Mahuta said, is a diverse society with “low tolerance for fringe elements who seek to disenfranchise communities based on their ethnicity or religion”.
Jaishankar is set to travel to Australia during the second leg of his current visit, which will end on October 11.