Mahathir stands by his comments regarding India

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad stood firm yesterday on speaking out against India's actions in Kashmir and its new citizenship law, a move that has caused Indian palm oil importers to stop buying the commodity from Malaysia on New Delhi's instruction.

Tun Dr Mahathir's communications and media adviser A. Kadir Jasin has, meanwhile, suggested Malaysia relook the position of some 150,000 Indian nationals who work in the country, as a tit-fot-tat measure.

India buys more than 9 million tonnes of palm oil annually, mainly from Indonesia and Malaysia, Reuters reported.

Asked about reports of the Indian boycott, Dr Mahathir said: "We're concerned, of course, because we sell a lot of palm oil to India, (but) we need to be frank and when something goes wrong, we need to say it."

He added: "The fact is what's happening in India today is causing a lot of unhappiness among the people there, and the whole world feels that it's wrong to discriminate against others."

Dr Mahathir said last September that India had "invaded and occupied" Kashmir, a disputed Muslim-majority region also claimed by Pakistan.

In December, he spoke out against India's recently-approved Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which makes it easier for persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to get citizenship - but not if they are Muslims.

If combined with a proposed national register of citizens, critics of the CAA fear it will discriminate against India's Muslim minority.

Indian palm oil importers have effectively stopped all purchases from Malaysia after New Delhi privately warned them to shun the commodity from the South-east Asian nation, Reuters reported.

A leading Indian refiner was quoted by Reuters as saying: "Officially, there is no ban on crude palm oil imports from Malaysia, but nobody's buying due to government's instructions."

Datuk Seri Kadir wrote on Facebook yesterday: "Since India is bent on penalising the importation our palm oil products, we should perhaps take a look at the position of India expatriates and workers in our country, and the products we import from India."


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 15, 2020, with the headline Mahathir stands by his comments regarding India. Subscribe