“Well, it did because of my remarks on Kashmir. But, other than that the relationship was very good, even under my leadership,” Mahathir was quoted as saying by the WION news channel. He was asked whether the India-Malaysia relationship deteriorated during his tenure as prime minister.
In September, 2019, Mahathir raised the Kashmir issue while speaking at the UN General Assembly, drawing strong reaction from the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which said India “completely rejects the references made in respect of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral and inalienable part of India.”
“We once again call upon the Malaysian leadership to develop better understanding of the facts, including that Pakistan which remains an epicentre of global terrorism, continues to recruit, train, arm and finance cross-border terrorism against India,” the MEA said at the time.
“Our relations with India have always been very good… But of course, off and on there would be some minor glitches, events which affect immediate relations at that time. But, very quickly we overcome such strains in our relationship,” Mahathir said.
He recalled that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was one of the earliest world leaders to call on him when he became the Prime Minister, the second time.
“Apparently, we had met a long time ago, although I had forgotten and he was able to show a picture of us together from a long time ago, before he became the Prime Minister,” Mahathir recalled.
He said he had met Prime Minister Modi and had good discussions with him.
“Well, we always want to maintain good relations, whoever may be the Prime Minister of India, it’s not something that we should take into consideration. Whoever is the Prime Minister we will develop good relations with the Prime Minister,” he said while responding to a question.
When asked whether India under Prime Minister Modi has emerged as a global player, he said, “Yes.”
He, however, said Prime Minister Modi’s domestic policies differ from previous Indian governments. “You have been a secular state and I think it is important that you perpetuate that stand that you took when you became independent,” he added.
When asked why he raises concern about the Muslims in India, but does not stand up for the Muslims of China, he said, “Well, our relationship with India and China is not quite the same. So, with India we feel that you are more liberal, more willing to accept criticisms. But, with China you know they don’t. They have a different system and different viewpoints.”
On China’s border aggression against India, Mahathir said the “two of you (India and China) should sit down and settle this problem.”
“We never take sides. We just recognise problems and solving the problems by taking sides is not going to do any good. We think that between China and India there is already some understanding, already you are going to talk to each other. Please continue talking,” he said.
On pointing out that the American military presence has increased in the Indo-Pacific region to counter the Chinese, he said, the confrontation is not going to present good results.
“I think it is better if America and China were to sit down to iron out their differences around a table. That is our wish, that is our way. We are against war, we are against making threats in order to call the other countries into following what you want them to do,” he said.