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Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) shakes hands with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: Reuters
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak (left) shakes hands with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi ahead of their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Saturday. Photo: Reuters

India, Malaysia vow to strengthen economic ties

PM Narendra Modi said India ready to expand trade and capital flows with Malaysia after his talks with counterpart Najib Razak

New Delhi: India on Saturday called for a scaling up of economic ties with key Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nation) partner Malaysia in areas like infrastructure and building of smart cities besides food security during talks between Prime Minister Narenda Modi and visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Razak is on his third visit to India since taking office as prime minister of Malaysia in 2009.

Describing the economic partnership between the two countries as a “thriving one," Modi after talks with Najib said: “To build new avenues of prosperity in our societies, we are ready to expand trade and capital flows between our two economies.

“Infrastructure has been an area of fruitful partnerships between us. But, we can do much more. India’s infrastructure needs and our ambitious vision of developing Smart cities match well with the Malaysian capacities. Malaysian companies are participating in many of our infrastructure projects across different states in India," Modi said.

“We are also converging efforts aimed at food security that are linked to the wellbeing of our farmers. The MOU (memorandum of understanding signed on Saturday) on the proposed development of a fertiliser plant in Malaysia and off-take of surplus urea from Malaysia to India is a welcome development," the prime minister said referring to one of seven agreements signed between the two countries on Saturday.

According to Indian officials, business delegations from the two countries are expected to sign a clutch of pacts including two way business contracts worth $ 5 billion.

Najib, who arrived in India on Thursday on a five day visit, is accompanied by about a dozen cabinet ministers and a 80-100 member strong business delegation. The visit assumes significance given that it comes as India and Malaysia are marking 60 years of their establishment of diplomatic relations. India is also planning events to mark 25 years of dialogue partnership with the economically vibrant Asean countries later this year.

Analysts say ties between India and Malaysia have shown a marked upswing in recent years giving economic cooperation stronger roots.

Many in the government and the Indian strategic community agree that bilateral ties under former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammed, who was in power from 1981 to 2003, were far from satisfactory —mainly due to a perceived tilt towards India’s arch rival Pakistan.

It was in 2009, when current Prime Minister Najib Razak—son of Malaysia’s second prime minister Abdul Razak and nephew of the third prime minister Hussein Onn—took over that relations seemingly turned the corner.

India is keen on building stronger political, economic and strategic ties with Malaysia, seen a moderate Muslim nation with a population of approximately 28 million.

In recent years, Indian firms have moved to Malaysia in a big way, making it a base to do business with other Asean countries. Malaysia has invested $6 billion in India and an additional $6 billion worth of projects have been executed, Indian officials said. Indian investments in Malaysia are worth $2.5 billion.

In his remarks on Saturday, on security and strategic ties between India and Malaysia, Modi noted that there were both “conventional and non-conventional security threats" constantly on the rise.

“Prime Minister Najib and I agreed that these challenges threaten the stability and economic prosperity of our countries and the region. And, require us and other countries of the region to work together. In this context, I deeply appreciate our continuing cooperation with the Malaysian government in our joint anti-terrorism efforts," Modi said.

He commended Najib’s record of countering radicalization and terrorism in his country calling it an “inspiration for the entire region."

“To secure our societies, and for the greater regional good, we have agreed to further strengthen our strategic partnership to shape an effective response to our common concerns and challenges," Modi further said.

On his part, Najib said he had offered Modi insights into the success of Malaysia’s de-radicalisation programme.

“We are willing to work closely together with the Indian government for a special conference that will be held in near future and we will provide our experience and with our partners to make sure Malaysia and other parts of the world will never be a place in which militancy and extremism will take root," Najib said.

In an oblique reference to the China’s aggressive moves in the South China Sea, where Beijing has faced opposition from Asean neighbours for its efforts to claim parts of the sea as its territorial waters, Modi said: “Prime Minister Najib and I are also conscious of our role and responsibility in promoting economic prosperity, freedom of navigation, and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, especially its Oceans."

China, which claims most of the resource-rich region, has carried out land reclamation and construction on several islands in the Spratly archipelago, parts of which are also claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.

To bolster its claims to large portions of the South China Sea, Beijing has been engaged in land reclamation and building islands which houses airports, harbours and other facilities. This has involved, in some cases, the dumping of massive amounts of sand to build up land on what were reefs or structures that may only have been exposed at low tide, according to Reuters’ reports.

On India-Malaysia defence cooperation, Modi noted that its scope encompassed training and capacity building, maintenance of equipment and military hardware, maritime security and disaster response.

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