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Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and his NZ visit – 3 Pointers for Wellington’s India Relations Policy

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By Sunit Prakash

Background & Introduction

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s Air India One made it as far as Auckland; Wellington’s runway was not long enough to accommodate his 747.

Symptomatic of Wellington’s attempt to have New Delhi as a sister city I thought and time to dust off my submission to the Wellington City Council (WCC) in 2013, and review it.

There are any number of cities vying for Delhi’s attention.  It makes sense to look at cities that are more Wellington’s size and where Wellington’s Indian diaspora have natural connections.AAEAAQAAAAAAAAjTAAAAJGRjMGJlODNkLWZmMGUtNDcxOC1iZmZhLTQwMjdhNzZiZTQ2ZQ

(and thanks to Prashanta Mukherjee for planting the seed of the initial idea in the first place). 

Among others, in its draft, WCC’s international policy said:

Explore India

There may be merits in the Council taking advantage of our capital city status to partner with Delhi in the long term.

This could act as a platform for economic and social developments.

While there are no immediate plans to enter into formal relationships with Delhi, we hope to engage in conversations in the future to identify areas of cooperation.

Pointer 1:

Take advantage of the demographics of the Indian population in Wellington and leverage off their knowledge and connections – the vast majority of the Indian population in Wellington trace their roots to Gujarat

Supporting Facts:

Approximately 2.6% of New Zealand’s population is Indian.  Wellington’s Indian population can be estimated at approximately 11,000, of which an estimated 4,000 come from the state of Gujarat

Considered as India’s Guangdong, and is the forerunner of all states in India for economic development and growth.  Gujarat accounts for 5% of India’s population but 16% of its industrial output and 22% of its exports

(http://www.economist.com/node/18929279?zid=306&ah=1b164dbd43b0cb27ba0d4c3b12a5e227)

Pointer 2:

Identify cities in India compatible with Wellington in size, agility and having a bias for action – in Gujarat these being Ahmedabad, Surat or Vadodra – for a relationship of some kind

Supporting Facts:

Ahmedabad pop 5.57 million, Surat 4.462 million, Vadodra 1.667 million, Rajkot 1.2 million, Bhavnagar 0.593 million, Jamnagar 0.529 million & Navsari 0.283 million

(http://www.citypopulation.de/India-Gujarat.html

Note: Delhi pop 9.879 million; Wellington approx 0.496 million; there are over 60 tier 2 & 3 cities in India   

Pointer 3:

Understand and consider the unique value proposition the proposed candidate city has to offer so that it can be converted to real projects resulting in hard core economic value to the benefit of both

Supporting Facts:

Ahmedabad: Textiles (Manchester of India), Pharmaceuticals, Gems & Jewellery, BPO and software development houses providing services to some very large and well known US household brands, devastating earthquake in 2001

Surat: Textiles (the largest textile market in India), Diamond Cutting – direct business connections with Brussels & Antwerp and probably the largest operations in the world, Heavy Engineering & Manufacturing, rat-born plague in 1994, fastidious on urban cleanliness

 Vadodra: Textiles, Pharmaceuticals, Chemicals, Oil Refineries and downstream industry. Flying school.

And with Brendan McCullum playing for them, I would add Rajkot to the list of candidate cities along with Navsari to complement NZTE’s efforts in Delhi & Mumbai.

 The state of Gujarat: On account of its relative affluence and family connections, Gujarat sends a large number of tourists (for family visits and reunions) and students to New Zealand.

Many Gujaratis are captains of Indian industry and rank among the wealthiest in the world.  There is no shortage of capital or imagination in the state. 

Developments since 2013 – Confirmation & Validation

  1. That since the submission in 2013, Narendra Modi then the Chief Minister of Gujarat is now the Prime Minister of India
  2. That the 4th largest city in Gujarat is now an IPL franchise holder; and New Zealand’s top cricketer plays for them
  3. And now, in 2016, President Pranab Mukherjee visits NZ and signs the Air Services Agreement to boost trade and tourism

Did my feedback make a difference?

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it did.  Here below is the text from the final policy document, with the changes from the original underlined.

And with McCullum flying New Zealand’s flag in Gujarat, it may be time to start on the execution of strategy.

Explore India

There may be merits in the Council taking advantage of our capital city status to partner with Delhi (or other city) in the long term.

This could act as a platform for economic and social developments.

While there are no immediate plans to enter into formal relationships with Delhi, it is considered appropriate to continue to engage in conversations with Indian Community in Wellington to identify areas of cooperation.

 

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