Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad reiterated on Tuesday that he will not retract his criticism of India’s decisions in Jammu and Kashmir in August, Reuters reported. The statement came a day after an influential Indian trade body told its members to stop buying Malaysian palm oil.
India had cancelled the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution in August, triggering outrage from Pakistan, seen as an ally of Malaysia.
“We speak our minds, and we don’t retract or change,” Mohamad told reporters in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. “What we are saying is we should all abide by resolutions of the [United Nations]. Otherwise, what is the use of the UN?”
Mohamad added that Malaysia will study the impact of the boycott called by the traders body. “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,” Mahathir said. India has so far not responded to the boycott.
In his speech at the United Nations General Assembly last month, Mohamad claimed that India had “invaded and occupied” Kashmir despite several United Nations resolutions calling it a disputed territory. “Ignoring the UN would lead to other forms of disregard for the United Nations and the rule of law,” he added. In response, India’s External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the government of Malaysia should bear in mind the friendly relations between the two countries and desist from making such remarks.
Malaysia is the second-largest producer and exporter of the vegetable oil, and India is the largest importer of edible oils. India also buys palm oil from Indonesia, soy oil from Argentina and Brazil, and sunflower oil from Ukraine. In the 2018-’19 financial year, Malaysia’s exports to India were worth $10.8 billion. India was the third-largest export destination for palm oil for Malaysia, worth $1.63 billion.
“The recent developments pertaining to strained relations between our nation and Malaysia have put a lot of responsibility on our industry in view of huge imports of palm oil,” the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India said in a statement on Monday, according to Bloomberg. “In your own interest as well as a mark of solidarity with our nation, we should avoid purchases from Malaysia for the time being.”
Soon after Mohamad’s statement at the UN, Twitter users in India started a #BoycottMalaysia movement. But Mohamad had said he did not think his remarks would affect trade relations with India. “I have already spoken to Modi,” he said. “If there are any unsatisfactory feelings within Modi, he can contact me, but to date, no calls.”
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