Malaysian PM refuses to raise Kashmir issue, but backs Pakistan on FATF
Even as Malaysian prime minister, Mahathir Mohamed, refrained from mentioning the Kashmir issue in a joint press statement with Pakistan PM Imran Khan, the MEA told parliament on Wednesday that on both Kashmir and CAA, India “expects these countries to not comment on the internal affairs of India; respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; and develop a proper understanding of the issue.”
Trouble with Malaysia had started when Mahathir told the UN general assembly in September last year that India had “invaded and occupied” Kashmir. Despite some strongly worded pushback from India, Mahathir had refused to back down. This led to India putting curbs on imports of palm oil from Malaysia. Imran Khan promised to buy more palm oil from Malaysia to offset the gap created by India. However, according to official figures, India imported 4.4 million tonnes from Malaysia in 2019, while Pakistan had taken just over 1 million tonnes.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan shakes hands with Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad after a joint press conference in Putrajaya. After repeatedly mentioning Kashmir at all international fora, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad did not mention the K-word during the joint press conference after his bilateral meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
A marked shift from what was expected at the joint press briefing ever since New Delhi started recalibrating its economic ties with Kuala Lumpur.
Although the joint statement issued after the talks mentions Kashmir and that PM Imran Khan apprised the Malaysian premier of the situation on the ground, Mohamad seems to be trying to balance relations.
“We also exchanged views on the current situation concerning Muslim Ummah globally, including the situation in Palestine and the situation in the Rakhine state of Myanmar involving Rohingya muslims…” said the Malaysian premier.
Khan on his part not only raised the issue of Kashmir but also thanked PM Mohamad for his support and cooperation on the issue. India had been exhorting Malaysia to not internationalise the issue of Kashmir and that the decision on Article 370 was an “internal” matter of India.
In his comments last month, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar had said, “India and Malaysia have age-old ties that the Malaysian government should keep in mind while making statements.”
The recent steps taken by India to stop palm oil imports would largely impact Malaysia since they are the largest exporters of palm oil to India. Khan offered to compensate for the loss that Malaysia could suffer due to the ban by India.
“That’s right especially since we noticed India threatened Malaysia for supporting the Kashmir cause, threatened to cut palm oil imports… Pakistan will do its best to compensate for that,” Khan told the joint news conference.
While it seems like Malaysia has had some kind of a rethink, the Pakistan-Malaysia statement said, “both the countries also firmly stressed that the question of Palestine, situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the Rohingyas issue should be resolved.”
Meanwhile, the MEA told Parliament countries have “shown understanding … that matters related to Jammu & Kashmir, which is an integral part of India, are internal to India; and that Pakistan sponsored cross-border terrorism has been posing a grave threat and affecting the lives of the people of India, including in Jammu & Kashmir.” In the face of criticism by global media and civil society, the government said the Indian position on the CAA is that it is “an affirmative action meant to address the long standing predicament of the vulnerable sections living in India; and that it does not impact in any manner on the status of any citizen of India or deprive any Indian of any faith of her or his citizenship.”
The UN Human Rights Commissioner had on December 13 criticised the CAA, which the government described as “inaccurate and unwarranted”. “Government immediately registered its protest with the office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and clearly conveyed that the legislation is a humanitarian measure and is in line with India’s international human rights obligations.”
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