Malaysia is against terrorism in any form, the country’s prime minister Mahathir Mohamad told his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi after talks between the two leaders on Thursday on the sidelines of an international meet in Russia.
Mahathir’s comments came during a discussion with Modi on New Delhi’s decision to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and reorganizing the erswhile state into two Union territories. The views assume significance given the Malaysian PM was reportedly supportive of Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s position on the revocation of Article 370, along with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Modi explained the “rationale behind the re-organization of the state in terms of giving effective governance and in terms of delivering social justice,” foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters in Vladivostok, in the Russian Far East. Modi and Mahathir are chief guests at the Eastern Economic Forum.
The two leaders discussed terrorism and “the efforts by both sides to cope with growing global terror,” Gokhale said. “The Prime Minister of Malaysia acknowledged that this is now a global problem and he unequivocally expressed that terrorism in any form is something that Malaysia is against.”
India revoked J&K’s special status on 5 August and has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was an internal matter. It also advised Pakistan to accept the reality. Pakistan is trying to internationalize the Kashmir issue after India’s decision.
Modi also raised the issue of the extradition of radical Islamist preacher Zakir Naik. India has stepped up efforts to seek his return to face terrorism and money laundering charges. “Both parties have decided that our officials will stay in contact regarding the matter and it is an important issue for us,” Gokhale said.
Naik, 53, is a radical television preacher, who left India in 2016 and subsequently moved to the largely Muslim Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency. Indian authorities want him for alleged money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches. Naik has been banned from any public activities in the multi-ethnic country after his remarks against Malaysian Hindus and the Chinese on 8 August.
In a second bilateral, Modi met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is due to visit India in December for the annual India-Japan summit. During the meeting, it was agreed that the foreign and defence ministers of India and Japan will meet in the “2+2″ format ahead of the Modi-Abe meet, Gokhale said.
The two leaders also discussed the Indo-Pacific region, an issue on which India and Japan share similar views. “Prime Minister Abe spoke of a free and open Indo-Pacific and the importance of a bilateral cooperation in that regard, both on economic side and in terms of people-to-people relations to build a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific region,” Gokhale added.
He said Modi and Abe gave a “very positive assessment” of the Japan-America-India trilateral, saying that they agreed that the tradition of having a summit meeting between the three countries should continue.
India, the US and several other countries have been speaking of the need to ensure a “free, open and thriving” Indo-Pacific in the backdrop of China’s rising military profile in the region. India, the US, Australia and Japan are part of the “Quadrilateral”—a group of countries who agree that critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific are “free” and “open”.
However, China claims sovereignty over all of the South China Sea, while Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Taiwan have counter claims.
China is also engaged in the highly contested territorial disputes in the East China Sea with Japan. Beijing has built up presence and militarised many islands and reefs it controls in the region.