Malaysia PM Mahathir stands by criticism of India on Kashmir issue
Mahathir acknowledged his remarks at the UN had strained diplomatic ties between Malaysia and India, and described the current situation as a “trade war” between the world’s biggest exporter of palm oil and the largest buyer of the commodity.Updated: Oct 22, 2019 22:32 IST
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday doubled down on his criticism of India’s decision to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status despite a call by Indian traders to stop buying Malaysian palm oil.
India had strongly criticised Mahathir’s remarks at the UN General Assembly last month that Jammu and Kashmir had been “invaded and occupied”, saying the Malaysian government should desist from making such comments.
“We speak out our minds and we don’t retract or change,” Mahathir said during a news conference outside Parliament.
“We felt the people of Kashmir had benefited from the resolutions of the UN, and all we are saying is that we should all abide (by the resolutions), not just India and Pakistan, but even the United States of America and other countries. Otherwise, what’s the good of having the UN?”
India says Kashmir is a bilateral issue to be handled with Pakistan, and bristles at all references to UN resolutions by other countries. India has also ruled out third party mediation on the Kashmir issue.
Mahathir acknowledged his remarks at the UN had strained diplomatic ties between Malaysia and India, and described the current situation as a “trade war” between the world’s biggest exporter of palm oil and the largest buyer of the commodity.
On Monday, the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India (SEAI), India’s main vegetable oil trade body, asked its members to stop buying Malaysian palm oil over Mahathir’s “unprovoked pronouncements” on the Kashmir issue. There has been no official word from the Indian government.
However, Mahathir said it was sometimes necessary to speak out on issues. “Malaysia is a trading nation, we need markets and so, we are nice to people. But also, we have to speak up for people. So, sometimes what we say is liked by some and disliked by others,” he said.
He said his government would study the impact of SEAI’s boycott and find ways to deal with the matter. “This is not the Indian government, so we will have to find out how we can deal and communicate with these people, because trade is a two-way thing and it’s bad having what amounts to a trade war,” he added.
In a statement, Malaysia’s primary industries minister Teresa Kok said the call for a boycott was being viewed with “great concern”. She said: “While we try to understand the underlying sentiment associated with the SEAI advisory with respect to Malaysian palm oil imports, we feel this is a major setback in our progressing cooperation and working relations.”
Malaysian exported palm oil worth $1.65 billion to India in 2018.