"We Speak Our Mind": Malaysian Prime Minister Stands By Kashmir Comment
A defiant Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday stood by his remarks on Kashmir, stating that he believes in "speaking his mind". The assertion came days after the Ministry of External Affairs expressed regret over the Southeast Asian country claiming in the United Nations General Assembly last month that India had "invaded and occupied" Jammu and Kashmir.
Speaking to reporters during a press conference in the Malaysian parliament, Mr Mohamad said: "We felt that the people of Kashmir had benefited from the resolution of the United Nations, and all we are saying is that we should all abide, not just India and Pakistan, but even the United States of America and other countries. We speak out our mind, we don't retract and change."
In his address to the 74th United Nations General Assembly, Mr Mohamad had said, "Now, despite the UN resolution on Jammu and Kashmir, it has been invaded and occupied. There may be reasons for this action, but it is still wrong. The problem must be resolved through peaceful means."
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar reacted earlier this month by saying that Mr Mohamad's remarks were regrettable - especially as India and Malaysia have traditionally enjoyed good ties. "We deeply regret these comments as they are not based on facts," he added.
Acknowledging the strained diplomatic relations between Malaysia and India over his remarks, Mahathir said that it is necessary to speak out on the issues, even though such remarks could be disliked by some. "Sometimes, we need to have strained relationships but we want to be friendly with people. Malaysia is a trading nation, we need markets and so, we are nice to people. But also, we have to speak up for people. So, sometimes what we say is liked by some and disliked by others," he said.
Incidentally, an influential processors' group in Mumbai has asked its members to refrain from buying palm oil from Malaysia in light of its Kashmir stand. Indian buyers of palm oil have been turning to Indonesia for supplies over concerns that the central government will curb its purchase from the Southeast Asian country.
However, Mr Mahathir said on Tuesday that he won't bring the palm oil issue with India to the World Trade Organisation "for the moment". Palm oil in Kuala Lumpur fell 1% to 2,263 ringgit a tonne, in a further retreat after closing at the highest in eight months on Friday.
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