Will a New Government in Malaysia Reset India Ties?

India’s relations with Malaysia took a downward path under the previous Pakatan Harapan (Alliance of Hope) government headed by Mahathir Mohamad.

Deviating from Malaysia’s usual policy of maintaining neutrality in the internal affairs of its strategic partners, Mahathir adopted an aggressive stance vis-à-vis Indian policies such as the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

With the new coalition Perikatan Nasional (PN) government headed by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassinin now in power in Malaysia, there is already an indication of thawing relations between India and Malaysia.

However, in the coming years, the road to harmony in the India-Malaysia relationship is full of pitfalls. The resumption of the previous warmth in relations between India and Malaysia largely depends on the new government’s ability to maintain neutrality in India-Pakistan disputes.

Also, the PN government will need to resist using Islamic rhetoric in its foreign policy to assuage its domestic audience, since doing so has the potential to complicate its relations with other countries, such as India. For the PN coalition, which includes the extreme right Parti Islam Malaysia (PAS), it will be a fine line to walk.

India-Malaysia Spat

Adopting an unusually harsh stance toward India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), then-Prime Minister Mahathir said that New Delhi was trying to “deprive some Muslims of their citizenship.” Similarly, at the UN General Assembly (UNGA) meeting in September 2019, he alleged that India has “invaded and occupied“ Kashmir.

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