NEW DELHI : India on Thursday said it had not put any ban on the import of palm oil a day after the government imposed restrictions on imports of refined palm oil seen as a move to discourage imports from Malaysia but one that will impact India’s imports from Nepal and Indonesia as well.

In New Delhi, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said that the decision made public by the Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), to shift palm oil and palmolein into the “restricted list" from the “free list" was a commercial decision.

“When you are looking at issues related to the import of any product from any country there are basically two factors -- one is the commercial decision and the other is defined by the trade policy," Kumar said. “In this case it is defined by the trade policy. There are basically three categories under which you can import items – open, restricted and prohibited. This (palm oil and palmolein) is not under prohibited category. So why do you presume that this means imports will be stopped?" he said in response to a question.

Putting the palm oil in restricted category means an importer will require licence or permission for the inbound shipment, according a PTI report. India, the world's largest importer of vegetable oils, buys nearly 15 million tonnes annually. Of this, palm oil comprises 9 million tonnes and the rest 6 million tonnes of soybean and sunflower oil.

Indonesia and Malaysia are the two countries which supply palm oil. Malaysia produces 19 million tonne of palm oil in a year, while Indonesia produces 43 million tonne, the PTI report said. India also imports palm oil from Nepal.

India’s move is seen as coming against the backdrop of remarks by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed on the new citizenship law and Kashmir issue.

On 20 December, Mahathir had reportedly said, "I am sorry to see that India, which claims to be a secular state, is now taking action to deprive some Muslims of their citizenship."

"If we do that here, you know what will happen. There will be chaos, there will be instability and everyone will suffer," he had said.

Earlier, Mahathir had said in the UN General Assembly that India had "invaded and occupied" Kashmir.

In his comments, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Kumar said India and Malaysia have ageold ties that the Malaysian government should keep in mind while making statements. India had expressed its concerns on different occasions but the Malaysian government had continued to make remarks in the same vein, he said. India was hopeful that there would be a rethink on the matter at some stage, he added.

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