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Malaysia-India Bilateral Relations

An analysis of the relationship between Malaysia and India avers that Malaysia’s relations with India have always been very close and cordial. It should be stated that this is a relation which stems from the long historic links between the peoples of both the countries. Another important aspect that deserves a special mention is the fact that a considerable size of the Malaysian population is of Indian origin. A cursory glance in the domain of the relationship between Malaysia and India would reveal the fact that they have a long history of trade and cultural relations.  But as far as the diplomatic relations between Malaysia and India are concerned, it was established with the Federation of Malaya (predecessor State of Malaysia) in the year 1957. The year 2007 was celebrated as the 50th anniversary of the foundation of diplomatic engagement between the two countries. The year 2022 is commemorated as the 65th year of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and India. 

The diplomatic interactions between the two countries have been seen in different areas. Both the countries are common members of various fora which include the NAM, the G-15, the G-77, the Commonwealth, the World Trade Organisation, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the East Asia Summit, and the Indian Ocean Rim-Association for Regional Cooperation (IORAC). Southeast Asia has gained a very significant prominence through India’s Look East Policy.  In such a situation, the economic convergences along with similar security concerns made it imperative for both Southeast Asia and India to nurture, foster, and come into closer ties. It is a matter of great importance and significance that Malaysia-India relations have undergone a tremendous metamorphosis which may be attributed to the restructuring of the entire system of balance of power and at the same time, the emergence of the multi-polar world.  As far as the diplomatic relations between Malaysia and India are concerned, India is represented in Malaysia through the High Commission of India which is based in Kuala Lumpur. On the other hand, Malaysia is represented in India through their High Commissions in New Delhi and the Consulate Generals located in Mumbai and Chennai.  It is a fact that Malaysia and India have traditionally been close and friendly.  From the diplomatic point of view, there have been regular summit-level exchanges and meetings. 

The Indian leaders have always been very keen to establish a close relationship with Malaysia right from the beginning. For example, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited Kuala Lumpur as early as 1946 and Penang in the year of 1954. Smt. Indira Gandhi also visited Malaysia in the year 1968. The then Prime Minister of India, Mr. V.P Singh visited Malaysia for the inaugural program of the G-15 Summit in 1990. It was followed by a bilateral visit by Malaysia’s Minister of Works, Samy Vellu in April 1999. These visits undoubtedly added a new dimension to the diplomatic relationship and strengthened the partnership between the two countries. Dr. Mahathir Mohammad in his long tenure as Malaysia’s Prime Minister visited India five times beginning in 1983 and  his last visit in 1996. Another significant visit by the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to Malaysia during the period 13–16 May 2001 was also very significant from a diplomatic point of view. His thrust on the country’s foreign policy to “Look East” definitely been a pioneering one in developing the strong bond of diplomatic relationship between Malaysia and India. The former Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh made an official visit to Malaysia from 26 to 28 October 2010. During the visit of the Indian Prime Minister, both India and Malaysia agreed to work on a Framework for Strategic Partnership. This idea of strategic partnership envisioned the development of a multifaceted relationship between Malaysia and India with the aim to elevate the bilateral relations to the level of a long-term strategic partnership. In the same year in January 2010 Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Haji Mohammad Najib bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak paid a visit to India. In the process of strengthening diplomatic ties, the Foreign Ministers of both countries headed the Joint Commission, which held its 5th meeting in Kuala Lumpur on 3rd May 2011.  Subsequently, Dato’ Seri Mohd. Najib Tun Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia visited India on December 19-20, 2012 in order to attend the ASEAN-India Commemorative Summit which was held in New Delhi. During the visit, the Prime Minister of Malaysia had a bilateral meeting with the then Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. The whole scope of bilateral ties was highlighted during this bilateral meeting. Mention should also be made to the other high-level Ministerial visits from India during the years 2010–2012 which include those by the Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission in September 2010, the Minister of Road Transport and Highways in December 2010, the Minister of Commerce and Industry in February 2011 to sign the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA), the External Affairs Minister of India in May 2011, the Minister of New and Renewable Energy in September 2011, the Ministry Of State for Textiles in November 2011, the Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs in February 2012, the Minister of State for Finance in July 2012, and Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs in December 2012. 

High-profile bilateral visits from the side of Malaysia to India include the visit of Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to India from 8 to 13 March 2011.  During the visit, he also paid a courtesy call to then Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and met the External Affairs Minister, Minister of Road Transport and Highways and Minister of Education (MoE).  Other significant bilateral visits of Malaysian officials to India, include the visit by the Malaysian Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation from 21 to 22 February 2011, the Minister of Health on the 4th of  March 2011, the Minister of International Trade and Industry from 2 to 4 March 2011, the Minister of Finance in October 2011, the Deputy Foreign Minister (for the Delhi Dialogue) in February 2012, the Minister of Plantation Industries and Commodities from 5-8 June 2012, the Minister of Green Technology, Energy and Water from 7-8 November 2012, the Minister of International Trade and Industry from 12-15 December, 2012, and the visit by the Deputy Foreign Minister of Malaysia in February 2013 for the 5th Edition of the Delhi Dialogue.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia, His Excellency Dato Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, visited India from 30 March to 04 April 2017.  This was his third visit to India as the Prime Minister. His visit followed the highly successful visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Malaysia in November 2015. Then in 2018, Shri Narendra Modi again visited Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on the 31st of May, to meet the newly elected Prime Minister of Malaysia, H. E. Dr. Mahathir Mohammad. Prime Minister Narendra Modi met the newly-elected Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohammad and the two leaders had a productive exchange of views on strengthening the strategic partnership between the two countries. This visit of Prime Minister Modi significantly contributed to enhancing the diplomatic relations between Malaysia and India.

Malaysia have always been by the side of India as a true friend. The diplomatic relations between Malaysia and India are robust and will  enhance further in the future.