23 June 2023

Indian High Commissioner visits Invercargill to strengthen ties

The High Commissioner of India in New Zealand, Neeta Bhushan, visited Invercargill on June 18 to attend International Day of Yoga hosted by Indian Community in Southland (ICS). 

The two-day visit also included engagements with the local community, city officials, and regional business representatives.

Vinay Sood, ICS President, shared the excitement of the local Kiwi-Indian community and said, “It was an honour for the Indian Community in Southland to host Her Excellency High Commissioner of India to New Zealand, Ms Neeta Bhushan, visiting for the first time to Southland.”

More than 80 community members gathered at Hansen Hall in Southern Institute of Technology (SIT) to participate in yoga practice and commemorate International Day of Yoga.

Bhushan, and high commission official Durga Dass, also took the opportunity to meet community members and address their concerns about passports, visas and other related matters.

Bhushan later visited Southland Hindi School, the only institution in Southland dedicated to teaching the Indian language to the next generation of Indian community members, ensuring their connection to their heritage. 

Himani Mishra, who operates the Southland Hindi School, said, “This visit has definitely lifted up our confidence, paving the way for more new positive things.”

The high commissioner also met with Dr. Teri McClelland, International Manager at SIT, which boasts of a large number of Indian students. 

McClelland said, “I was pleased to meet with Her Excellency and discuss India’s rapidly growing economic base and potential opportunities for India/New Zealand cooperation and partnerships. Approximately 15 per cent of SIT’s current international students are from India, and we look forward to strengthening our partnerships in India in the future.”

During her visit, Bhushan engaged with Invercargill Mayor Nobby Clarke to discuss various topics, including the need for improved trade relationship between New Zealand and India. Mayor Clarke emphasised the importance of forging a stronger bond, stating, “New Zealand needs a better trade relationship with India, as both countries have trade and expertise the other needs for their development.”

Showing a keen interest in the opportunities presented by the Southland region for trade and investment, Bhushan met with representatives from local businesses. 

She highlighted the strategic importance of India and the strides made by the country in world trade and economics. 

Sheree Carey, CEO of Southland Chamber of Commerce, shared, “Our discussions with the high commissioner were deeply insightful, giving her an in-depth understanding of the economic make-up of our region. Our unique blend of industries, from advanced manufacturing to innovative technology, were showcased, emphasising our regional strengths and our robust potential as a destination for foreign direct investment.”

Scott O’ Donnell, Director of HWR Group, an Invercagill-based company, said, “It was great to meet her excellency and understand the opportunities for trade and tourism. NZ needs to widen its export market horizon with countries like India and spread risk rather than depending on only one country.” 

Chami Abeysinghe, CEO of Great South said, “The visit emphasised Her Excellency’s vision of increased trade between the two countries, with a commitment to ensuring she will do all she can to make this happen. Her visit also signified the importance of the Southland Indian community and their contributions to bilateral relationships. We do hope to continue discussions about opportunities to develop strong economic ties between Southland businesses and their Indian counterparts.”

National’s Penny Simmonds, MP for Invercargill, highlighted the significance of the Indian community in Southland, and the importance of strengthening relationships with India to revitalise international student numbers at SIT. 

She said, “Her Excellency stressed how important education is to Indian families, and her willingness to support Southland tap into education and trade opportunities in India was much appreciated.”

At the end of the visit, Bhushan said, “I had an excellent first visit to Invercargill. The turnout for celebrating International Yoga Day was great. I got an opportunity to interact with the Indian community in Southland, as well as leaders in business and culture.”

Source: indianweekender.co.nz – 23 June 2023

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