The New Zealand First MP’s attack on ‘students that have come from India’ comes as another prominent New Zealander completes a visit to India embracing, well, students that have come from India.
This morning on Newshub Nation, the minister for the regions and verbal jukebox Shane Jones took aim at Indian students, and their impact on New Zealand universities. “I think that the number of students that have come from India have ruined many of those institutions,” he said.
His specific target – or example – was New Delhi. “There should be a mandate, rather than opening up the options unfettered, and everyone comes here from New Delhi,” he said.
On the face of it that might seem like just the usual blast on the xenophobic dog whistle, a sequel to his recent attack on Indian arranged marriages. But Shane Jones is a Harvard graduate, a political whiz, a brainiac. He operates on intellectual plains imperceptible to mere mortals. What if there is something else going on, someone else in his sights?
What if there is someone who is currently on their way to New Zealand after being in New Delhi? Someone who had been there to big up the place of Indian students in New Zealand, no less?
There is such a person.
Before departing for the world’s biggest democracy, this man said he was “seriously committed to strengthening New Zealand’s relationship with India”.
He arrived in New Delhi clutching a glossy brochure called India-New Zealand 2025: Investing in the Relationship.
The document lists among New Zealand’s ambitions: “Support strong growth in services trade by attracting more high value visitors from India, and enhance education opportunities and experiences for Indian and New Zealand students.”
In the document the man in question writes: “India matters globally, regionally and nationally. New Zealand recognises this and is committing to greater investment in the relationship … The Indian diaspora already makes up 5% of New Zealand’s population and is growing. Indian immigrants and students contribute skills and diversity to New Zealand’s economy and our communities.”
He adds: “New Zealand has benefited from skilled migrants, student exchanges, and rapid increases in tourist numbers from India.”
In the light of all this – which Jones, as a voracious reader would have known – is this man the target for this morning’s broadside at, you know, students from India?
The man held a meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday with India’s external affairs minister, following which the Indian government released a press release confirming: “The growing Indian diaspora and students in New Zealand forms a strong link between the two nations, contributing positively to the close partnership between the two countries.”
The man was visiting New Delhi as leader of a group of officials and businesspeople keen to build trade links. Their case, painstakingly made through the week, was predicated on the close ties between Indians and New Zealanders – and the important role Indians play in New Zealand. For Jones to almost immediately let rip of a Saturday morning a big ol’ “students that have come from India have ruined many of [New Zealand’s] institutions” – well, what else could it be but an enormous flipping of the bird at this man, whose identity by now you have probably guessed.
There’s more. Also on Wednesday, the man delivered an address in which he spoke glowingly of the Indian diaspora in New Zealand, who have “made seriously impressive achievements across all parts of New Zealand society. Indian New Zealanders have made prominent contributions in all fields of endeavour: from business to the judiciary; politics to sport.”
On Thursday, the man paid a special visit to the New Zealand Centre at the India Institute of Technology. According to a local report, he said: “Education is one of the key pillars bilateral relationship between New Zealand and India.”
So who is he? Who is this man who has had a continent of shade cast upon him by Mr Shane Jones?
It is, of course, the deputy prime minister, foreign minister, and leader of the New Zealand First Party, the Rt Hon Winston Peters.
The Bulletin is The Spinoff’s acclaimed daily digest of New Zealand’s most important stories, delivered directly to your inbox each morning.