interview | National

‘New Zealand wants defined norms for entry of non-NPT states into NSG’

“We need to play a role in deterring the nuclear threat,” says New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters.

The path ahead for the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) is yet “unknown”, said New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters, who raised the issue with the government during his visit to Delhi this week.

However, he made it clear that New Zealand would not get involved in the "local politics of a foreign country".

Mr. Peter’s visit coincided with that of U.S. President Donald Trump and came during the violence over the CAA in the capital, which left 42 people dead. In sharp contrast to Mr. Trump, who said he had not discussed the CAA or the violence, Mr. Peters told The Hindu he discussed both, as there were questions being asked “back home” about them.

Mr. Peters was accompanied by his Trade Minister and they met External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on bilateral trade and multilateral cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

Asked about India’s entry as a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which New Zealand blocked along with China and others in 2016, Mr. Peters said his government’s stand had not changed on the issue.

New Zealand continued to ask the NSG to develop “fixed norms and criteria” for all non-signatories to the Non Proliferation Treaty.

India and New Zealand have committed to working closer on their Indo-Pacific strategies and bilateral trade issues this week, but India’s admission to the Nuclear Suppliers Group remains an unresolved issue. New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters said he had also raised questions over the Citizenship Amendment Act during his discussions with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.

New Zealand has brought out its vision for India-New Zealand bilateral ties- 2025. What are your priority areas, and what do you hope will be India’s?

The plan is to bring far better cooperation between our two countries, not just on domestic and bilateral issues like trade, but on the big picture — the Indo-Pacific commitment — and to give it shape and form on the basis of fundamental principles of the rule of law, belief in democracy, multilateralism and the aspirations of the Indian government to be more involved in the Pacific region.

You are in Delhi at a time there has been violence over the Citizenship Amendment Act... Did that come up in your talks?

We asked for better information, and what were the surrounding circumstances around this event [violence], yes, we did. We are not a country that interferes in the local politics of another country. We might have a view, but we respect the right of democracies to make specific decisions.

What we were interested in finding out was all the aspects surrounding the legislation and where it would all lead to. The last part of the question is unknown. But we are interested to know, because our population back home will ask the question, did you raise it? The answer is yes, and we wanted to know what the political view about the legislation is and we go away better informed about what the system thinks, and what the opposition thinks.

What is your response to India’s decision to walk out of the RCEP, which New Zealand is a part of and do you think the government will rethink?

We have looked at some of the reasons for India’s decision, including their concerns on dairy imports, and our considered view is that New Zealand’s dairy industry represents no threat to the Indian economy or the farming community. We didn’t ask for the government to rethink [its RCEP position], but we do think it is necessary to avoid knee jerk reactions to the open market. This is not meant as a criticism, as politicians we understand how democracies work.

One of the thorns in the India-New Zealand relationship is your refusal to make an exception for India’s membership at the Nuclear Suppliers Group. Was this discussed and is New Zealand likely to change its stand?

Not at the moment. We have come here to reiterate why we have made the statement in the first place that New Zealand would like to fix norms and criterion for all non-NPT states to be admitted into the NSG. We had a very valuable discussion with the External Affairs Minister [S. Jaishankar] on our position. Remember, we have planes in the air surveilling North Korean movement and the nuclear threat, which we need to deter and we need to play this role.

On the Indo-Pacific strategy for the region, New Zealand is not part of the Quad (Australia-India-Japan-US). Would it like to be?

We don’t have ideas above our station, and we haven’t been invited [to join the Quad]. We are a serious international player, and we are proud of that. When there is a crisis in the region, our military, airforce and navy are there.

It is also our job to ensure that in the Pacific Islands neighbourhood we live in, there are no vacuums and our neighbours’ national interest is supreme. So we provide aid, do development cooperation with them. We may not give them big loans at low interest rates at levels of debt against the GDP that they can’t pay back.

India has shown an interest in the region, and what we have offered is our understanding and our expertise of the Pacific Island region to work on projects together. If 4-5 partners work together, our money will go a whole lot farther and per project, a whole lot cheaper, as long as we agree that the object is to benefit the people.

Did you also discuss how to tackle the 5G challenge, and whether Chinese company Huawei should be allowed to participate in the networks, given the security concerns?

It came up. We were at pains to point out that the international narrative that we have banned Huawei, as a government, is entirely wrong. The legislation on this passed by a former government, required that government communications and the security bureau to analyse whether the security conditions were adequately met. So it is not a political decision, it is a technical process for 5G. The security and safety of our citizens remains our number one priority.

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Printable version | Mar 28, 2020 5:25:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/new-zealand-deputy-prime-minister-winston-peters-interview-new-zealand-wants-defined-norms-for-entry-of-non-npt-states-into-nsg/article30945275.ece

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