KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday said he would not retract his criticism of New Delhi’s actions in occupied Kashmir despite Indian traders calling for an unprecedented boycott of Malaysian palm oil.
The impasse could exacerbate what Mahathir described as a trade war between the world’s second-biggest producer and exporter of the commodity and its biggest buyer so far this year.
India’s top vegetable oil trade body on Monday asked its members to stop buying Malaysian palm oil after Mahathir said at the UN General Assembly last month that India had “invaded and occupied” Kashmir.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government on Aug 5 stripped occupied Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status and imposed a curfew and a communications blackout.
“We speak our minds, and we don’t retract or change,” Mahathir told reporters outside parliament.
“What we are saying is we should all abide by resolutions of the (United Nations). Otherwise, what is the use of the UN?”
Mahathir said Malaysia would study the impact of the boycott called by the Mumbai-based Solvent Extractors Association of India and look at ways to address the issue.
New Delhi has so far refused to comment on the trade spat.
“This is not the Indian government, so we have to find out how we can communicate with these people because trade is a two-way thing and it is bad to have what amounts to a trade war,” Mahathir said.
Malaysia’s exports to India were worth $10.8 billion in the fiscal year that ended on March 31, while imports totaled $6.4 billion, according to Indian government data.
Malaysian palm oil futures slipped on Tuesday over concerns demand would fall from India.
India was Malaysia’s third-largest export destination in 2018 for palm oil and palm-based products worth 6.84 billion ringgit ($1.63 billion).
Malaysia said last week it was considering raising imports of raw sugar and buffalo meat from India, in a bid to ease the trade tensions.
India, the world’s biggest importer of edible oils, also buys palm oil from Indonesia as well as soyoil from Argentina and Brazil, and sunflower oil from Ukraine.