By Asia Samachar Team | MALAYSIA |
India has taken steps to punish Malaysia for what is believed to be a retaliation to the audacity of the Malaysian leader to criticise the regional power house on its actions in Kashmir region and its new citizenship law.
News reports originating from India and Malaysia said India has instituted measures to reduce palm oil imports from Malaysia, its second largest source after Indonesia.
In a report yesterday, Reuters said India has imposed restrictions on imports of refined palm oil and palmolein.
Quoting unnamed sources, the Mumbai-based report said the move was a retaliation against top supplier Malaysia after its criticism of India’s actions in Kashmir and a new citizenship law.
It said the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry had issued a notification declaring that the import of refined palm oil “is amended from ‘Free’ to ‘Restricted.’”
Four industry sources told Reuters that the memo was an effective ban on imports of refined palm oil, meaning India can now only import crude palm oil. It will hit Malaysia, the main supplier to India of refined palm oil and palmolein, but is likely to help Indonesia, the biggest exporter of crude palm oil. Palmolein is a liquid form of palm oil used in cooking.
Indian government and industry sources told Reuters that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government was seeking to target Malaysia after recent criticism of India by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The relations between the two nations came under watch when Dr Mahathir made pointed remarks in a United Nation’s address on India’s handling of the Kashmir issue.
In his speech during the general debate of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Dr Mahathir said: “The helplessness of the world in stopping atrocities inflicted on the Rohingyas in Myanmar had reduced the regard for the resolution of the UN. Now, despite UN resolution on Jammu and Kashmir, the country has been invaded and occupied. There may be reasons for this action but it is still wrong. The problem must be solved by peaceful means. India should work with Pakistan to resolve this problem. Ignoring the UN would lead to other forms of disregard for the UN and the Rule of Law.”
Following the 28 Sept 2019 speech, there had been calls in India for the country to drop Malaysian palm oil.
The next salvo came on 20 Dec 2019 when Dr Mahathir at the sidelines of the Kuala Lumpur Summit, badged as an international platform for Muslim leaders, intellectuals and scholars. At the last minute, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had cancelled his scheduled attendance, supposedly due to pressures from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia and Indonesian leaders were also notably absent.
Speaking out against India’s recently-approved citizenship legislation, which appears discriminatory towards Muslims, he said: “I am sorry to see that India, which claims to be a secular state, is now taking action to deprive some Muslims of their citizenship.
“If we do that here, you know what will happen. There will be chaos, there will be instability and everyone will suffer.
“Already people are dying because of this law, so why is there a necessity to do this when all this while, for 70 years almost, they have lived together as citizens without any problems.”
This remarked saw a swift response from India. First, it issued an official statement urging the Malaysian leader to refrain from commenting on India’s internal affairs, “especially without a right understanding of the facts”.
The next day, the Malaysian envoy in India was summoned for a meeting with the nation’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
“The third in command went for the meeting, as the high commissioner and his deputy were away,” one source told Asia Samachar.
Indonesia traditionally corned around two-third of India’s palm oil imports, but a lower duty on refined palm oil helped Malaysia to overtake Indonesia as India’s biggest supplier in 2019, Reuters reported.
Palm oil is crucial for the Malaysian economy as it accounts for 2.8% of gross domestic product and 4.5% of total exports. State-owned and private Malaysian refineries will likely have to scramble to find new buyers for their refined product.
Malaysia, India in second spat within weeks (Asia Samachar, 23 Dec 2019)
India shunning Malaysian palm oil over Dr Mahathir’s Kashmir remarks – Report (Asia Samachar, 16 oct 2019)