India and New Zealand decide to enhance depth of engagement in key areas

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New Delhi, May 25 (PTI) India and New Zealand on Tuesday carried out a comprehensive review of the bilateral ties and decided to enhance the depth and momentum of engagement in areas of defence and security, counter-terrorism, cybersecurity and climate change.

At a virtual meeting held under the framework of India-New Zealand foreign office consultations, the two sides also discussed issues relating to access to COVID-19 vaccines and medicines to contain the coronavirus pandemic globally, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said.

Both sides exchanged views on various regional issues and reiterated the importance of closer cooperation for a rules-based international order and a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region, it said.

'Comprehensively reviewing ongoing bilateral cooperation, both sides discussed the steps to be taken to enhance the depth and momentum of engagement in different areas including defence and security, trade and investment, space, counterterrorism, cybersecurity, disarmament and climate change, and for strengthening people-to-people ties,' the MEA said.

The decision by the two sides to boost ties came in the backdrop of comments by New Zealand foreign minister Nanaia Mahuta that her country could find itself at the heart of a storm of anger from China while referring to neighbouring Australia's trade war with Beijing. 'We cannot ignore, obviously, what's happening in Australia with their relationship with China. And if they are close to an eye of the storm or in the eye of the storm, we've got to legitimately ask ourselves – it may only be a matter of time before the storm gets closer to us,' she told The Guardian.

China is one of the major export markets for New Zealand's dairy products.

In a statement, the MEA said the two sides also discussed ways to strengthen coordination in multilateral and regional fora.

The Indian delegation at the third Foreign Office Consultations was led by Riva Ganguly Das, Secretary (East) in the MEA.

The New Zealand side was headed by Mark Sinclair, Deputy Secretary, Americas and Asia Group, in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The previous round of consultations took place on February 5, 2019, in New Delhi.

'The consultations were held in a friendly and cordial atmosphere. Both sides agreed to hold the next consultations at a mutually convenient date,' the MEA said. PTI MPB ANB ANB

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