Malaysia is firm on Kashmir despite boycott pressure

Both countries will communicate in an effective way to avoid such trade squabble, says PM


MALAYSIA will not back down from its statement over the Jammu-Kashmir conflict despite India’s threats to boycott the country’s palm oil.

Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad (picture) at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly last month said that India had “invaded and occupied” Kashmir and called for New Delhi and Islamabad to work together to resolve the conflict.

His statement, however, was not well-received with calls to boycott Malaysia’s palm oil were made by unofficial source and traders. India’s Solvent Extractors’ Association had asked its members not to buy palm oil from Malaysia.

New Delhi has not officially commented on the matter.

“We speak our minds, and we don’t retract or change. What we are saying is we should all abide by the resolutions of the UN. Otherwise, what is the use of the UN?” he said at the Parliament lobby yesterday.

Despite the rising concerns of a possible Malaysia-India trade war, Dr Mahathir said the two countries will communicate in an effective way to avoid such trade squabble.

“This is not the Indian government, so we have to find out how we can communicate with these people because trade is a two-way thing and it is bad to have what amounts to a trade war.

“We will study the effect of the boycott. What is important is that their government has not said anything so we will see what the government policy is going to be like.

“Sometimes there is a strain on the relationship but we want to be friendly with people. Malaysia is a trading nation and we need markets, so we are nice to people. But, we have to speak up for people, so sometimes what we say is liked by some and disliked by others,” Dr Mahathir said.

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that the US has raised concerns about the ongoing detention of residents and political leaders in India’s Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir amid months-long restrictions on communication and movement across the region.

President Donald Trump’s administration has “closely monitored” the situation in Kashmir after India changed the state’s legal status to create two new union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, according to a statement made by Bureau of South and Central Asia acting assistant secretary Alice G Wells on Oct 22.

Malaysia is the world’s second-largest producer and exporter of palm oil after Indonesia, while India is the biggest buyer of the commodity globally. India bought palm-based products worth RM6.84 billion last year.

Reuters had earlier claimed that the Indian government was mulling restrictions on imports in response to Dr Mahathir’s remarks at the UN assembly last month, when he said India had “invaded and occupied” Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region also claimed by Pakistan.

In August, India revoked Kashmir’s autonomy and limited movement in the disputed region to quell unrest.