India bans Malaysian palm oil after Mahathir's criticism

The Malaysian prime minister slammed India over Kashmir and its amended citizenship law. In 2019, India bought 28 per cent of Malaysia’s exports for a total of US$ 1.3 billion. Disagreements between the two countries include Malaysia’s refusal to extradite a controversial Muslim preacher, who is wanted in India.


New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – India has banned the import of refined palm oil from Malaysia in what analysts say is the latest chapter in a growing rift between the two countries.

The decision was triggered by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’ latest statements on Kashmir and India’s amendment to its citizenship law on 12 December.

Malaysian media have reported the ban citing government sources after the latter noted a couple of days ago that India was informally asking refiners and traders to avoid buying Malaysian palm oil.

India is the world’s top importer of palm oil, and was Malaysia’s biggest customer last year, accounting for 28 per cent of its palm oil exports – more than double the previous year.

Indonesia remains India’s single largest source of palm oil products with a 60 per cent market share, exporting about US$ 3.8 billion worth of palm oil to India in 2018, compared to US$ 1.3 billion from Malaysia.

India had already raised taxes on refined palm oil from Malaysia for six months in September to 50 per cent from the previous 45 per cent as a safeguard against import spikes following a trade agreement that was signed between the two countries in early 2018.

Disagreements have emerged on various issues, including the Malaysian government's refusal to extradite controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who is wanted in India on charges of money laundering and incitement to extremism.

Despite promoting sectarian politics, Naik enjoys the status of permanent resident in Malaysia and the protection of the country’s ruling coalition government.

Relations between the two countries have cooled considerably since Mahathir's return to power in May 2018. Last August, Mahathir, 94, said that India "invaded and occupied" Muslim-majority Kashmir, which is claimed by neighbouring Pakistan.

More recently, the Indian government has been irritated by Mahathir's comments regarding its amended citizenship law, which makes it easier for citizens of certain neighbouring countries to obtain Indian citizenship, except for Muslims.

Indian officials dismissed Malaysia's criticism as "factually inaccurate".

Speaking at a gathering of leaders of Muslim countries in Kuala Lumpur last December, Mahathir said that people "are dying from this law, so why is there a necessity to do this thing”?

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