While the ball has been set rolling for Vijay Mallya’s return to India as he has exhausted all his legal options and is now awaiting UK Home Secretary Priti Patel’s go ahead before he is sent back to India. It seems Vijay Mallya is not the only fugitive who’s going to come back to India as in a significant development, India has now resumed palm oil imports from Malaysia which only means one thing: the return of the radical Islamist Zakir Naik.
India had earlier restricted palm oil imports from Malaysia as a punitive measure against ex-Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s constant anti-India rants and meddling in India’s internal affairs in his quest for Wahhabism. However, bilateral relations have improved by leaps and bounds under the Muhyiddin government as the new Malaysian government has pulled out all stops to placate India.
It all began with Malaysia importing 324,405 tonnes of sugar from India in the first three months if 2020 as compared to around 110,000 tonnes in 2019. This came as a huge relief for India as the country is a sugar surplus country.
Recently, Malaysia has decided to import 100,000 tonnes of rice from India in the span of the next two months. This purchase by Malaysia is already double the average yearly volume of rice the country has imported from India in the past five years. This is a significant move as Malaysia on average imported around 53,000 tonnes per year for the last five years.
As a retaliatory measure against Mahathir’s anti-India rants, India decided to restrict palm oil imports from Malaysia which had a devastating impact on the latter’s economy. India imported just 10,806 tons of palm oil in March which is the lowest monthly total since 2000.
Realising the gravity of the situation the Malaysian government, slashed its export duty on the commodity to zero for the month of June. It is important to note that the export duty on the commodity was 4.5% in May.
Now, after a four-month gap India has finally started purchasing palm oil imports from Malaysia as leading Indian importers placed orders of up to 200,000 tonnes of crude palm oil from Malaysia which will be delivered in June and July.
India’s decision to restart buying palm oil from Malaysia couldn’t have happened in the absence of a deal which ensures the extradition of Zakir Naik. Naik had been protected by Mahathir and the latter stonewalled any Indian attempts to bring him back.
For the uninitiated, Zakir Naik who is on the run since October, 2016 is hiding in Malaysia and runs Peace TV which is already banned in many countries. The controversial televangelist came into limelight when the perpetrators of Dhaka terror attack were said to be inspired by his so called teachings.
Peace TV was notoriously famous for airing inflammatory views against Hindus, Jews and Christians. Regrettably, the channel even called Sufis and Shias as grave worshippers and infidels. The channel used to have a viewership of over 100 million, majority of them in the war torn Middle Eastern countries. The extremist messages propagated by the Peace TV was investigated way back in 2011 when the Office of Communications, the British government’s official regulatory for broadcasting investigation found out that Peace TV labeled all other religions as “arch enemies of Islam”, often coming out with statements such as “if a Muslim changes his faith, he/she should be put to death” leading to his channel getting banned from UK and Canada.
India remains determined to bring back Zakir Naik as earlier this month, the Indian government sent a formal request to Malaysia seeking extradition of Zakir Naik.
This well might be a case of win-win for both India and Malaysia as the latter was trying very hard to encourage Indian buying of palm oil.
Recently, according to Malaysia’s Commodities Minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali, Malaysia has set itself a month’s deadline to resolve the dispute over palm oil which now has been successfully achieved. Earlier this month, Malaysia’s Transport Minister Dr Wee Ka Liong said, “Can we just renegotiate? It’s for my country as well as for my people,” Wee told Reuters. “Since we are a new government, let the PM, the new government deal with it. We treasure the friendship with India.”
The Muhyiddin government is not a fan of the radical Islamic preacher as last year, when the Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman had made certain remarks defending Zakir Naik, Muhyiddin had made it clear that Abdul Rahman’s remarks did not reflect upon the position of the Malaysian government and would not disrupt the ongoing proceedings on the issue of Zakir Naik.
He was quoted as saying, “For me, it doesn’t matter; we aren’t bound by their views. We are bound by the rule of law.” The Islamic preacher had also come under fire in Malaysia for bigotry with comments pitting Malaysia’s ethnic and religious minorities against the Muslim Malay majority.
Muhyiddin has been trying clear Mahathir’s mess as he has attempted to placate India with increased imports and since Zakir Naik is a precondition for India to reinvigorate ties, the Islamist preacher can start packing his bags, as the Malaysian PM might grab this chance to win India’s favour and with India having resumed imports, the process may have already started.