New Delhi: New Zealand Prime Minister John Key did not explicitly support India’s application to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group, but only committed to “contribute constructively” to the “process” to reach a decision by an early date.
Key arrived in India after a long journey – with his 20-hour trip stretching to a 40-hour marathon as his official plane developed a snag while flying over Australia. As a result, the Mumbai leg of his trip was cancelled, but his engagements in New Delhi including discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi went on as scheduled.
The visit takes place as India is revving up its campaign for its second attempt to join the NSG this year.
New Zealand was part of the small group of countries at the NSG plenary meeting in Seoul which raised questions about the process of admitting India. The countries in question were also in favour of drafting criteria which would not be India-specific.
Speaking to the press after his discussions with Modi concluded, the Kiwi leader said that he had a “detailed conversation about India’s application for membership of [the] Nuclear Suppliers Group”.
“I acknowledged the importance to India of joining the Nuclear Suppliers Group. I also stated that New Zealand will continue to contribute constructively to the process underway in the NSG to consider India’s membership,” he said.
He added that New Zealand was “committed to working with NSG members to reach a decision as soon as possible”.
Modi expressed his thanks to Key for “New Zealand’s constructive approach to the consideration of India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group”.
The formulation of the Kiwi response was similar to the non-committal statement made by Brazilian President Michel Temer, who expressed “understanding” about India’s position at the bilateral meeting in Goa earlier this month.
Indian sources later said that they were “encouraged by the discussions on the NSG issue”.
The joint statement reiterated India’s argument that being a member of the NSG would provide the “predictability necessary for meeting India’s clean energy goals in the context of the Paris agreements”.
India, on its part, also acknowledged the “importance to New Zealand of a strong non-proliferation and disarmament regime”.
“It reiterated its commitment to the total elimination of all weapons of mass destruction including in particular nuclear weapons. Pending the global elimination of nuclear weapons, India will uphold global non-proliferation and work with partners such as New Zealand to advance nuclear disarmament,” said the joint statement.
In total, six agreements were signed which included one on the avoidance of double taxation and another addressing cooperation on cyber security issues.
— Raveesh Kumar (@MEAIndia) October 26, 2016
For New Zealand, this visit’s goal was to gain some political momentum to kick-start the long-stalled talks for a free trade agreement. The talks have been mainly stuck over tariffs on the import of Kiwi agricultural goods, including dairy, into India.
The joint statement reiterated that both sides are “committed to continue to work towards a high-quality, comprehensive and balanced bilateral Free Trade Agreement which would deliver meaningful commercial outcomes to both sides”.
Key was quoted in New Zealand media as saying that his country wants to tap into India due to its enormous potential, as well, as to diversify the Kiwi export market. “We want to diversify the markets we sell into. It’s not that we can’t find a home for what we produce but as I’ve always said we don’t want to have all our eggs in the Chinese basket,” said the Kiwi prime minister.