India has to worry over New Zealand election result (Comment)

November 15th, 2008 - 9:52 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaBoth the Indian government and New Zealand’s Indian community will be concerned that a conservative rightwing government has come to power in Auckland after general elections this month.The elections heralded the National Party’s John Key as the new prime minister, ending the left-of-centre Labour Party’s nine-year government of Helen Clark.

India’s dominant concern will be that the new government in New Zealand may influence the European countries and the US over the debates on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty (FMCT).

New Zealand has maintained that India should sign both FMCT and CTBT. India is not a signatory to either. The pacts ban nuclear testing. Experts believe that with a new Democratic government headed by Barack Obama in the US, India would be pressurised to sign CTBT and FMCT by countries such as New Zealand.

Though New Zealand under the Labour Party had demanded that India affirm the ban on nuclear testing, it didn’t mandate it during the decisive India-US nuclear deal’s meetings, including the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) meet in Vienna Sep 6. New Zealand is one of the influential countries in NSG.

India-New Zealand relations earlier turned cold after New Delhi conducted the nuclear test in May 1998. New Zealand was one of the countries that sought sanctions against India. The National Party’s Jennifer Mary Robson was prime minister then.

Also, bilateral ties between India and New Zealand improved during Helen Clark’s tenure from 1999-2008. Helen Clark was the first prime minister in two decades to visit India in October 2004.

India would be concerned whether the new government in New Zealand would continue with the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). The FTA was discussed during Indian Commerce Minister Kamal Nath’s visit to New Zealand in May. China signed the FTA with New Zealand in April.

Indian immigrants in New Zealand fear that the National Party’s new immigration policy would affect them. The National party’s election manifesto said immigrants would be issued a working visa only if they can show a job offer letter; and dependent visa issued to partners of the students studying in New Zealand will be reconsidered.

Those who won the elections include Indian origin politician such as Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, who has become New Zealand’s first Sikh MP, Pakistan-born Ashraf Choudhary and former Families Commission Chief Commissioner and Indo-Fijian Rajen Prasad.

In recent times New Zealand has been preferred by immigrants from India as the cost of living is less compared to Europe and the US. But with the strict immigration policy, things are set to change.

Indians in New Zealand who are students and skilled immigrants get permanent residency after they finish their course of study or get better employment opportunities. The permanent residency allows them to settle and avail themselves of government benefits such as housing and educational loans. In general it takes three years to secure permanent residency.

It is believed that the National Party government may reconsider the points system for permanent residency. The Labour government introduced the points system and it benefited the Indian community. The points system involved evaluation for permanent residency on the basis of qualification, age and availability of skilled labour.

Social tensions are to rise with the onset of the National Party government. The party has promised to bring legislation to cancel the separate electorate for Maori - the indigenous people of New Zealand. This could lead to simmering ethnic tension among the Maori, Asian and the majority Europeans.

In recent times violence against the Indian community that owns dairy shops in New Zealand has gone up. Earlier this year Indian immigrant Jagir Singh was shot dead by Pacific Islanders at his shop.

(Balaji Chandramohan is a journalist based in New Zealand. He can be reached on

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