Piracy is a growing issue that is of concern to everyone
New Zealand navy ships could be deployed to help fight the “growing issue” of piracy in the Indian Ocean.
Prime Minister John Key concluded talks with his Indian counterpart, Manmohan Singh, in Delhi yesterday, saying that naval co-operation with India was “always possible” as part of a closer defence relationship with the nuclear-armed superpower.
“It’s a growing issue that is of concern to everyone. If the waterways of the world aren’t safe, then that leads to a lot of different issues,” Key said.
“We have a lot of goods that we want to send around the world by ship. It [piracy] increases the insurance costs for our companies and it’s a serious issue for all of us, so it is a place where we can be more vigilant and we can work together.”
Singh said the time had come for the two countries “to intensify co-operation and consultations on issues relating to the Asia Pacific region”.
New Zealand and India had a stake in ensuring the safety of sea lanes, of communications, and in combating piracy. Both countries had agreed to “explore possibilities for greater co-operation in these areas”, Singh said.
A joint statement issued after the meeting said the two prime ministers had agreed to strengthen bilateral defence co-operation.
Ship visits and staff college exchanges had already deepened bilateral defence co-operation to the benefit of both sides.
New Zealand has previously declined a request to send a navy frigate to fight piracy in international waters.
Key said that, although it was possible a New Zealand ship could be sent at the request of India, initial steps would be more around the sharing of information.
He announced the appointment of a New Zealand defence adviser on India, who would probably be based in Wellington.
“It’s one liaison person that means that we work closely with the Indians and we can funnel information back and forth.
“I don’t think it’s an alliance, but it’s an opportunity for us to share information and to maybe collaborate a little more.
“I don’t think we want a formal alliance, but we work with a lot of different partners around the world and India is a good friend to New Zealand so I can’t see any reason why we can’t share more information with them when it makes sense.”
The Indian Army numbers more than one million soldiers and the country is a nuclear superpower.
But New Zealand’s stance on reducing nuclear weapons arsenals should not stop the two countries engaging on defence issues, Key said.
On trade, he said he came away from the talks more confident about securing a free trade deal than when he arrived in India at the weekend.
“We’ve done everything we can on our side. We need to go back and continue with those negotiations.
We shouldn’t kid ourselves that it will be straightforward and easy travelling because there are always issues, but I’m more confident than I was when I arrived that we’ll get the deal signed.”
Key carried on to Mumbai last night, where he visited the set of a Bollywood film that was partly shot in New Zealand.