‘We speak our minds’: Malaysian Prime Minister stands by Kashmir comment

The spat is the latest regional diplomatic dispute to impact trade flows

The spat is the latest regional diplomatic dispute to impact trade flows

Mahathir's remarks last month accusing India of invading Kashmir sparked outrage in India, where many have called for a boycott of Malaysia.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad said on Tuesday that he will not withdraw his criticism of India's actions in Indian occupied Kashmir, despite India's top vegetable oil trade organization's calls for an unprecedented boycott of Malaysia's palm oil.

Mahathir acknowledged his remarks at the United Nations had strained diplomatic ties between Malaysia and India, and described the current situation as a "trade war" between the world's biggest exporter of palm oil and the largest buyer of the commodity.

India and Pakistan both hold Kashmir in parts and claim it in full.

The first war over the disputed region ended in 1948 with the region divided between them and a promise of a UN-sponsored referendum on its future.

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"I don't want to say more".

Since 1989 tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have died in a popular uprising against Indian rule.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government removed the longstanding autonomy of India's portion of the Kashmir valley on Aug 5, calling it an internal matter and criticising countries that have spoken out against the move.

"We speak our minds, and we don't retract or change", Mohamad told reporters in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.

He said, "What we are saying is we should all abide by resolutions of the United Nations".

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Chaturvedi was also quoted as saying that the Indian government "has not taken kindly" to Mahathir's comments, and said that Indian vegetable oil companies "should avoid purchases from Malaysia for the time being" to show their solidarity with the nation. "This is not the Indian government, so we will have to find out how we can deal and communicate with these people, because trade is a two-way thing and it's bad having what amounts to a trade war", he added.

The exports would provide Malaysia with 6.84 billion ringgit, as vegetable oil exports accounted for 2.8% of the Malaysian gross domestic product past year, while they constituted 4.5% of the country's total exports.

The Solvent Extractors Association of India, the leading vegetable oil trade organization, on Monday, directed its members to stop purchasing palm oil from Malaysia.

India was Malaysia's third-largest export destination in 2018 for palm oil and palm-based products worth RM6.84 billion (S$2.23 billion).

Malaysian officials have attempted to fix bilateral relations since the Kashmir row by offering to raise imports of raw sugar and other products that will help India potentially shrink its trade deficit.

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Malaysia and Indonesia, which together account for about 90% of the world's palm oil supply, are committed to challenging the EU's proposed act to limit palm oil usage in biofuels via the WTO's dispute settlement body by the end of this year, said Malaysia's Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok.

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