Jaishankar, New Zealand counterpart discuss peace and stability in Indo-Pacific
External affairs minister S Jaishankar and his New Zealand counterpart Nanaia Mahuta on Monday discussed ways to strengthen bilateral cooperation and to work jointly for peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.
This was Jaishankar’s first interaction with Mahuta who took charge as New Zealand's foreign minister last November. The two ministers also discussed the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.
Since her appointment, Mahuta has established contact with her counterparts from key countries. The idea of an introductory phone call with Jaishankar was proposed by New Zealand, the people said.
“It was a pleasure to speak to New Zealand FM @NanaiaMahuta for the first time. Discussed the COVID challenge and our expectations of an early recovery. Our shared interests are expressed bilaterally and in the Indo-Pacific. Look forward to meeting her in person,” Jaishankar said on Twitter.
The two ministers discussed bilateral issues, a shared vision of the Indo-Pacific and regional issues, the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines and expectations related to post-pandemic recovery, the people said.
The ministers also agreed to keep in touch to further strengthen bilateral cooperation and to promote peace, prosperity and stability in the Indo-Pacific, the people added.
Mahuta was named the foreign minister after the landslide victory of the Labour Party under the leadership of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. She has over 20 years of experience as a lawmaker and is the first woman and the first Maori to be appointed to the post.
In her inaugural foreign policy speech to the diplomatic corps on February 4, Mahuta outlined her country’s priorities and said New Zealand has a deep stake in the stability and prosperity of the wider Indo-Pacific region, including through greater economic integration and adherence to its institutions and norms.
She said ties with the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), along with Japan, South Korea and India, are all important relationships for New Zealand. She added that New Zealand has much in common with these countries and will continue to invest in efforts to bolster ties with them.
India-New Zealand trade for the year ending September 2020 was worth $1.65 billion, making New Delhi Wellington’s 11th largest trade partner.
There are about 250,000 people of Indian-origin in New Zealand, making up almost 5 per cent of its population. In the general election of October 2020, two candidates of Indian origin, Priyanca Radhakrishnan and Gaurav Sharma, emerged victorious for the first time. Radhakrishnan subsequently became the first person of Indian-origin to be appointed a minister in New Zealand.