Unexpected gains from Track II trip to India and Malaysia

Young leader Areti Metuamate was both inspired and humbled by a recent trip to India and Malaysia, where he took part in high-level Track II political discussions.

Metuamate, who is studying towards a PhD in Pacific Studies at the Australian National University, travelled to Delhi and Kuala Lumpur as part of an Asia New Zealand Foundation delegation in December 2011.

AReti Metuamate and ASia:NZ delgates in Kuala Lumpur“I think the Track II meetings are really one of Asia:NZ’s most important development opportunities for young leaders. It would be fair to say I learned a great deal on this trip.”

In Delhi, Metuamate attended a full-day bilateral dialogue with the Institute of Defence and Strategic Analyses, along with meetings with other think tanks and members of the New Zealand diplomatic service.

Metuamate applied for the opportunity because he wanted to learn more about parts of Asia that he was less familiar with, such as India. “Perhaps the most important thing I came away with was a new sense of appreciation for the important role India has in the region and on the world stage.”

In Kuala Lumpur, Metuamate attended the Fourth ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Dialogue. He picked a session on Myanmar as a highlight. “I learned more about Myanmar in a short 30-minute session than I ever knew about the place. I left thinking, ‘wow, there is still so much out there that I don't know even a tiny bit about'. It was certainly a motivation to start reading more broadly than I have been.”

Watching Asia:NZ executive director Dr Richard Grant in action had also been a highlight of the dialogues. “I was very impressed by his broad knowledge base and his impressive way of presenting and interacting with people in both India and Malaysia. Seeing him in this context left me in no doubt that he is a highly respected diplomat and significant ambassador for our country.”

Overall, Metuamate said that taking part in such high-level discussions and meetings was a humbling experience.

“I spent the entire time listening and learning. Anyone who knows me would be surprised to hear that, but it's true. It was both inspiring and intimidating, and it made me think there are a lot of hard yards ahead to get anywhere near that level of knowledge and skill.

“It opens your eyes to a bigger picture. I certainly feel better equipped after this experience and I think that is the key purpose of having young leaders join in on the delegations – to equip them better so in turn they can contribute more to the ongoing dialogue in the future.”

Metuamate advised all young leaders to apply for track II opportunities, and successful applicants to be well-prepared to “soak everything in”.

“Not just what happens in the formal dialogues but all the other stuff too. Watch your fellow delegates – all of them have expertise you can learn from. Study the New Zealand diplomats based in the host country, read the local newspapers and get your head around the current affairs. Just be a sponge!”

Image: Areti Metuamate (far right) with the Asia:NZ Track II delegation (from left) Brittany Chellew, Dr Richard Grant, Dr Mark Rolls and Dr Terence O'Brien.

Last updated: 11 Jun 2013