Malaysian PM Mahathir Mohamad has decided to stick to his stand on Kashmir when at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) he foolishly claimed that Kashmir has been “invaded and occupied“. He realized his faux pass would have grave consequences as India is planning to restrict palm oil imports from Malaysia and hence moved to placate India by claiming that the tensions between the two countries will be resolved through diplomatic channels. The 94-year old has issued an extremely bizarre statement while addressing a press conference which has prompted people his sanity to lead the export dependent nation.
He was quoted saying: “We speak out our minds and we don’t retract or change. We felt the people of Kashmir had benefited from the UN resolutions on Kashmir, and all we are saying that we should abide by the resolutions, not just India and Pakistan but even the Unites States of America and other countries, otherwise what’s the point of having the UN?”
However, he acknowledged that the relations between India and Malaysia have become strained and went on to issue an extremely bizarre statement which is unbecoming of a leader of a nation. He was quoted saying: “Malaysia is a trading nation, we need markets and so, we are nice to people. But also, we have to speak up for people. So, sometimes what we say is liked by some and disliked by others.”
Mahathir’s statement has ended up contradicting himself as if Malaysia is indeed ‘nice to people as it needs markets’, then Mahathir must be grateful to India and not be in its crosshairs owing to the latter’s contribution to Malaysia’s economy. Malaysia’s palm oil exports to India amount to 2.8% of its GDP and over 6,00,000 Malays’ livelihoods depend on their palm oil exports to India which would be in jeopardy if India goes ahead with its plan to restrict palm oil imports and will have an immediate negative impact on Malaysia’s economy.
Mahathir it seems has skipped his classes on economy as he has decided to alienate India at a time when Malaysia exported palm oil worth $1.65 billion to India in 2018. Globally, the European Union is also planning to phase out palm oil by 2030 as there are growing concerns over its impact on the environment as Malaysia finds itself caught in the crossfire between the US-China trade war as two of its biggest trade partners engage in a tariff war. At such a delicate time, Mahathir’s statement which will alienate India exposes his inept and is extremely poor judgement of economics.
India’s threat to restrict palm oil imports from Malaysia has the potential to cripple the latter’s economy as the Modi government is planning substitute Malaysian palm oil, which makes a major portion of imports from Malaysia with trade of around 3.9 million tons in just the first nine months of 2019 making India the largest buyer of palm oil from Malaysia, with supplies of edible oils from countries such as Indonesia, Argentina and Ukraine.
Restricting imports from Malaysia would not create a shortage of edible oils in India either as Indonesia is eager to sell more and more palm oil and India could also increase imports of soy oil from Argentina and sunflower oil from Ukraine to offset any drop in palm oil shipments. This approach could devastate Malaysia’s palm oil industry.
Even the Malaysian media has slammed Mahathir and now he realizes the possibility of sanctions is very much real and hence, Mahathir recently tried to warn his citizens of the implications of being on the opposite side of India.
Only a leader with absolute disregard for trade and economy would decide to anger his country’s third-largest export destination for palm oil exports as in 2018, palm oil exports to India amounted to $1.63 billion. The palm oil industry is one of the biggest employers in the Southeast Asian country of 32 million people and India’s move to restrict its exports will have widespread ramifications for the country.
Malaysia’s exports to India were worth $10.8 billion in the fiscal year that ended on March 31, while imports totalled $6.4 billion and Malaysia has now offered to reduce the trade imbalance as PM Modi has managed to shake Malaysia as it comes to terms with the consequences of picking up a fight with India as according to a report, India is planning to substitute Malaysian palm oil, which makes a major portion of imports from Malaysia with trade of around 3.9 million tonnes in just the first nine months of 2019 making India the largest buyer of palm oil from Malaysia, with supplies of edible oils from countries such as Indonesia, Argentina and Ukraine.
Mahathir is like an overzealous kid who has recently found his love for his faith and even his daughter has slammed him for the same. Marina was quoted: “The influence of Islam in the country is increasing; Islam is being propagated at the cost of our traditional Malay culture,” she told news agency Reuters.
A famous proverb says that one is often influenced by his company. Mahathir’s sudden love for Imran Khan has seen him following Imran Khan in every step of the way as both the radical Islamists are determined to run their country’s respective economies to the ground.