Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Monday said his country was too small a nation to respond to India’s boycott of palm oil with trade retaliation, reported Reuters. “We are too small to take retaliatory action,” he told reporters in Langkawi. “We have to find ways and means to overcome that.”
His comments come after India reportedly stopped Malaysian palm oil imports following Mohamad’s criticism of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the Indian government’s actions in Kashmir. Last week, Mohamad had expressed concerns about the purported Indian restrictions on imports of palm oil, but had said that he would continue to speak out about “wrong things”.
In December, India had criticised Mohamad for claiming that people were dying because of the Citizenship Amendment Act, and the Indian government was “taking action to deprive some Muslims of their citizenship”. The Ministry of External Affairs described the Malaysian prime minister’s remarks as “factually incorrect” and said Mohamad had “yet again remarked on a matter that is entirely internal to India”. In October, the Malaysian prime minister had spoken against India’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional status.
India imports over nine million tonnes of palm oil every year from Indonesia and Malaysia. In 2019, India became Malaysia’s biggest importer of palm oil with 4.4 million tonnes of purchases, according to data by Malaysian Palm Oil Board. The move could effectively increase the country’s inventories and affect prices, which set the global standard for the oil.
The Citizenship Amendment Act provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. Twenty-six people died in last month’s protests against the law – all in the BJP-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Assam.
The BJP has refused to cede ground to the protestors, who have demanded a rollback of all three of the government’s moves. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP have repeatedly lashed out at protestors and Opposition parties for taking to the streets against the citizenship law.