We are ‘too small’ to take retaliatory action against India’s palm oil import curb: Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohammad

Mahathir bin Mohamad(Source: Hindustan Times)

After threatening India with a trade war, Malaysian PM seemed to have struck with a sobering realisation as he said that his country is “too small” to take retaliatory action against India over the palm oil curbs.

The world’s largest buyer of the edible oil, India, effectively stopped imports from its largest supplier and the world’s second-largest producer following Malaysian PM Mahathir’s deprecatory remarks against India regarding its internal policies pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir and the CAA.

Speaking to reporters in Langkwaki, a resort island off the western coast of Malaysia, Mahathir said, “We are too small to take retaliatory action against India. We have to find ways and means to overcome that.”

India has been the largest buyer of the palm oil from the South-east Asian nation since the last 5 years. As a probable result of the palm oil import curbs by India, benchmark palm futures in Malaysia tanked 10 per cent last week, the steepest decline in more than 11 years.

But the Indian government had denied the allegations saying the decision was not country-specific and said that decision to restrict refined palm oil import was a commercial decision. However, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had stated, “The state of the relationship is one of the factors that businesses look at before doing business. If I am an importer and I have to import a certain product from a country, I would certainly keep that at the back of my mind, as to how the status of the two countries are.”

Read: Baba Ramdev welcomes restrictions on Palm oil imports by Modi govt, says it will help farmers and domestic refined oil industry

The 94-year-old Malaysian premier had also drawn sharp criticism after his disapproving remarks against India at the United Nations General Assembly. In his address to the 74th UNGA, Mahathir accused India of “invading and occupying” Jammu and Kashmir. This was after India abrogated Article 370, stripping Jammu and Kashmir of its separate status and subsequently bifurcating the state into two union territories- Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Earlier, undeterred by Indian traders’ calls for a boycott of palm oil, Malaysian PM remained firm saying he would not retract his criticism of New Delhi’s actions in Kashmir.

In fact, the Malaysian PM had also issued a statement about the recently enacted Citizenship Amendment Act. Criticising the Citizenship Law, Mahathir said he felt the law was “grossly unfair”.

In addition to this, the Indian government is also displeased with Malaysia for sheltering radical Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who has been accused of money laundering and hate speech in India. The Malaysian PM had said that even if the Indian government guarantees a fair trial for Naik, he faces a serious threat of “vigilante action” in India and that Malaysia would relocate the preacher only if it could find a third country where he would be safe.

It is, however, not the first time that the 94-year-old Malaysian PM has expressed his helplessness. Earlier, asked about his silence over the plight of Uighur Muslims, and China’s ventures into the disputed waters of the South China sea, Mahathir had stated that his country is not strong enough to take on China, hence he maintains silence.

“The Malay states have existed near China for the past 2,000 years. We have survived because we know how to conduct ourselves. We don’t go around trying to be aggressive when we don’t have the capacity, so we use other means.” He had added that in the past, Malaysia used to send tributes of gold and silver to the Chinese rulers every year to pledge its subservience.

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