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India initiates steps to reset ties with Malaysia following Mahathir’s exit

The Indian envoy to Malaysia, Mridul Kumar, met new Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and foreign minister Hishammuddin Hussein on Monday – the first significant contact between the two sides since Mahathir’s remarks took ties to a fresh low last year.

Updated: Mar 19, 2020 21:56 IST

By Rezaul H Laskar, Hindustan Times New Delhi

Malaysia's Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin (Reuters file photo)

India has initiated steps to put relations with Malaysia back on track after former premier Mahathir Mohamad’s repeated criticism of the situation in Kashmir and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) strained bilateral ties, people familiar with developments said on Thursday.

The Indian envoy to Malaysia, Mridul Kumar, met new Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and foreign minister Hishammuddin Hussein on Monday – the first significant contact between the two sides since Mahathir’s remarks took ties to a fresh low last year.

“The meetings were exploratory steps aimed at a reset of the relationship,” said a person who declined to be named. The Malaysian side’s response so far was perceived as positive, the people added.

Kumar handed over a congratulatory letter from Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Yassin, according to a tweet from the Indian high commission in Kuala Lumpur.



“Thanking PM Modi for the letter, Malaysian PM expressed keen desire to strengthen ties with India,” the tweet said.

Another tweet from Malaysia’s foreign ministry said during Kumar’s meeting with the foreign minister, both sides reviewed bilateral ties and “discussed possible ways to further strengthen relations”.

Yassin, who was earlier the home minister, was appointed the premier in March after Mahathir’s sudden resignation.

Despite push back from India, Mahathir repeatedly criticised the CAA and the situation in Kashmir after the Indian government’s decision to scrap the region’s special status. The diplomatic row led to India imposing curbs on palm oil imports that hit Malaysia.

India, the world’s largest buyer of edible oils, changed the rules to effectively bar imports of refined palm oil from Malaysia, the world’s second-biggest producer and exporter after Indonesia.

In December, Mahathir Mohamad had said people were “dying” because of the CAA, prompting India to dismiss his remarks as factually inaccurate. During the UN General Assembly last September, Mahathir said Kashmir had been “invaded and occupied”. At the time, New Delhi had said the Malaysian leader was interfering in India’s internal affairs and such statements went against the spirit of long-standing India-Malaysia ties.

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