KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad stood firm on Tuesday (Jan 14) 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 Mahathir said Malaysia may now need to find a solution after the boycott of its palm oil by Indian palm oil refiners and traders.
"We're concerned of course, because we sell a lot of palm oil to India, but on the other hand, we need to be frank and when something goes wrong, we need to say it.
"If we allow things to go wrong and think only about the money, then a lot of things will go wrong," he told reporters after speaking at a forum.
India was the largest importer of Malaysian palm oil, but Indian 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.
The Indians have instead begun buying from Indonesia despite higher prices.
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."
India's government has not made any public remarks about Malaysian palm oil.
Dr Mahathir said on Tuesday: "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 its wrong to discriminate against others," he said.
Dr Mahathir in December spoke out against India's recently-approved Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which made it easier for persecuted minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan to get citizenship - but not if they were Muslims.
If combined with a proposed national register of citizens, critics of the CAA fear it will discriminate against India's Muslim minority and chip away at its secular constitution.
The issue has triggered weeks of sometimes violent demonstrations in India, with at least 25 people killed since December.
Meanwhile, A. Kadir Jasin, Dr Mahathir's communications and media adviser, on Tuesday suggested a possible tit-for-tat against Indian nationals who are working in Malaysia.
"If India or, for that matter other countries, want to boycott our products as a form of retaliation, we should also reconsider our stance towards them," Datuk Seri Kadir wrote in a Facebook posting. "For hundreds of years we have been accommodating immigrants from India. Some stayed temporarily but many stayed on and become citizens. The Indian High Commission in Malaysia estimated that there are 150,000 Indian expatriates and workers in Malaysia now.
"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. I think we should grow locally more of the food items we now import from India and elsewhere."
On Monday, Microsoft Corp's India-born CEO Satya Nadella said he was saddened by the new citizenship law based on religion that was recently implemented in his home country, BuzzFeed News reported on Monday (Jan 13).
"I think what is happening is sad, primarily as sort of someone who grew up there... I think it's just bad," Mr Nadella told BuzzFeed at a Microsoft event in Manhattan.