After issuing an anti-India statement on Kashmir, Malaysia has now proposed to increase imports from India. The Narendra Modi government in India, in the meantime, is considering cutting down imports from Malaysia, including that of edible oil.
Malaysia has said it can increase sugar and buffalo meat imports from India. The Malaysian Commerce Ministry said in a statement that it has taken this decision, realising India’s importance as Malaysia’s third-largest market.
Amidst reports that India would curb imports from Malaysia, Indian businessmen have already stopped importing oil from Malaysia, causing a huge loss to Malaysia in foreign exchange. Indian businessmen are currently substituting Malaysian edible oil with that from Indonesia.
India had imported $ 1.63 billion worth of palm oil and related products from Malaysia in 2018. Malaysia has said it is ready to negotiate the current trade imbalance between the two countries.
At the United Nations General Assembly meeting on 27 September, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had given a statement on the Kashmir issue that displeased India. Mahathir had said that there may be reasons for India’s action in Jammu and Kashmir “but it is still wrong.”
Mohamad said despite UN resolutions, Jammu Kashmir has been “invaded and occupied”, adding, “ignoring the UN would lead to other forms of disregard for the United Nations and the rule of law.” The Malaysian Prime Minister had said, “India should work with Pakistan to resolve this problem.”
India’s Foreign Ministry had reprimanded Malaysia for the statement on Kashmir and said that it should keep in mind the friendly relations between the two countries and refrain from making such statements.
Malaysia had exported $ 10.8 billion to India in the last financial year, while only $ 6.4 billion was imported from India.
According to Malaysia’s official news agency Bernama, Mahathir has now said that his government will study the impact of the steps taken by India. The agency quoted Mahathir as writing, “They (India) are also exporting goods to Malaysia. It is not only unilateral trade but bilateral.”
Mohamad said further that his statement (on Kashmir issue) should not be made the reason for a trade war between the two countries. If this happens, then both countries will suffer.
Jasmine Begum, a former Malaysian diplomat said, “It is a pity that India-Malaysia relations are going through such a bad phase. I hope the foreign ministers of the two countries try not to create differences between the two countries.”
Mohamad has always been supportive of Pakistan. Malaysia’s relations with India had improved after he was out of power in 2003. Last year, he made a surprise return to power.