Carelessness has become synonymous with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s regime and his latest faux pass at the United Nations General Assembly is a testament to this fact as he accused India of “invading and occupying” Jammu and Kashmir. Mahathir’s statement caught many by surprise as he sought to undo whatever was achieved between India and Malaysia in the past six decades.
India and Malaysia always used to be friendly countries with the attempt to deport Zakir Naik from Malaysia further proof of the bond shared by the two countries. Mahathir’s reckless attitude resulted in Malaysia and its citizens paying for his deeds as India has hit back strongly.
Even the Malaysian media has moved to slam Mahathir’s statement and questioned the logic behind criticising a country who significantly contributes to Malaysia’s economy.
“Malaysiakini”- a publication in Malay, hit out at Mahathir as reports emerged that India was planning to restrict palm oil imports. In its article titled ‘Mahathir you have made a mess’ it argued that “such a move can affect the economic state of Malaysia concretely since India is the second-largest buyer of Malaysian palm oil with 150,000 tons imported monthly. Palm oil is arguably Malaysia’s greatest source of income and the country is already struggling with international palm oil bans and an ever-increasing competition with Indonesia. So to have Indian buyers actively looking to switch to Indonesian palm oil exporters is a big deal.”
The publication’s concerns over competition with Indonesia are not out of the place as India is seriously planning to increase the imports from Indonesia and in turn, cripple Malaysia’s economy. As Mahathir countered by claiming that he has yet to receive any official communication from the India government, the publication argued that India need not send “anything official” before punishing the whole of Malaysia, thanks to Mahathir’s interference in Indian affairs.
Mahathir’s hollow claims of responding to India’s sanctions by banning Indian imports into Malaysia were reduced to rubble as the publication countered by claiming “To clarify, in essence, it is kind of a one-way trade. Looking at the facts, Malaysia’s import of Indian products constitutes only 0.2 per cent of India’s GDP, while India’s total import of Malaysian products was 2.7 per cent of Malaysia’s GDP. So, Mahathir’s threat of responding to India with our ban means little to nothing for a country with the fifth biggest economy in the world and barely any reliance on Malaysian imports.”
The publication destroyed Mahathir’s offer of increasing the imports of buffalo meat from India by claiming that “there is only so much buffalo meat Malaysians can eat.” It seems that Malaysian media has more knowledge of geopolitics than their Prime Minister as the publication urged the Mahathir government to deport the Indian fugitive Zakir Naik back to India and clear out the mess which could have serious repercussions for the already fragile economy.
In another article by Malaysiakini, titled “Palm oil exports to India – a self-inflicted wound by Dr M”, the publications slams Mahathir for his double standards and lack of diplomacy. The article starts with, “Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad tells the international press that Malaysia wants to be friendly with all nations, but he does the opposite. He lacks diplomacy and unnecessarily gets into tangles and turns friendly nations away like the current fiasco with India.”
The article further claims that Mahathir gets carried away on the International stage as he attempts to emerge as the champion of religion and race. It further questioned the need of being in the crosshairs of India by claiming, “What has the Kashmir conflict to do with us? As it is, we have got on the wrong side with India over wanted fugitive Zakir Naik. Why was it necessary to again snub and rub them the wrong way on Kashmir?”
The author is concerned as he believes that Mahathir’s provocations will come with consequence and cost Malaysia as India will teach him a lesson to not take them for granted. The article further elucidates how with a single negative statement, Malaysia has wiped out its biggest buyer of the commodity as concerns are raised about its effect on the players in the plantation industry and the nation and urge the Malaysian government to solve it through diplomatic channels.
The article lands bare Mahathir’s hypocrisy as he maintains a stoic silence when it comes to China’s treatment of the Muslim Uyghurs. The article takes a definite pro-India tilt and slams Mahathir as the author feels that he should have pondered a few things about India before he opened his big mouth in support of Pakistan. The article reinforces the fact that India has not invaded Pakistan albeit has simply secured its territories from the clutches of terrorist organisations from Pakistan. This article is an amalgamation of the opinions of the publication’s subscriber as there is an overwhelming majority in favour of India.
It is futile to think about what exactly prompted Mahathir to make such a reckless statement. He has effectively dug his country’s grave if doesn’t step on the gas moves to placate India.