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Zahid hopes to boost Malaysia-India ties during visit

Warm welcome: Dr Ahmad Zahid being greeted by officials from the Malaysian embassy and Wisma Putra on arrival in Delhi.- Bernama

Warm welcome: Dr Ahmad Zahid being greeted by officials from the Malaysian embassy and Wisma Putra on arrival in Delhi.- Bernama

NEW DELHI: Malaysia wants to boost trade, tourism and security cooperation with India, says Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Speaking to Malaysian reporters here, he said his visit was to reciprocate the visit made by India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Malaysia last year.

“Both Malaysia and India have held a strong diplomatic relationship since 1957. Next year, we will celebrate the 60th year of our relations and incidentally, when the Asean-India summit will be held, and this event will be a good opportunity for both governments and the people to strengthen bilateral relations,” he said here yesterday.

He added that among the issues that he would discuss with Indian officials was tourism.

“Malaysia receives about 700,000 Indian tourists every year. In 2013, the number jumped to 800,000.

“Our Government, through the Tourism Ministry, wants to increase the presence of Indian tourists in Malaysia. We want to help provide e-visa for them,” he said soon after arriving here yesterday.

Under the current system, a visa application for Indian tourists wanting to come to Malaysia takes between four and six days, while the processing fees are between 400 rupees (RM25) and 1,000 rupees (RM61).

On Indian workforce, Dr Ahmad Zahid, who is Home Minister, said there were now 130,000 Indian workers, including expatriates, in Malaysia.

“We have received a request from Malaysian industry players for an increase in Indian workers, especially in the services and manufacturing sector.

“The Indian Muslim Restaurant Operators Association has asked the Prime Minister for more workers from India and his note has been passed to me for action.

“We will still need to study this request because of the concern by Malaysian NGOs and other parties. We will still need time to finalise the request,” he added.

Dr Ahmad Zahid said India was Malaysia’s 10th largest trade partner, adding that Malaysian investments in India, including in infrastructure and public amenities totalled US$1.77bil (RM6.9bil).

He said that discussions would also touch on education.

He added that there were now about 5,000 Malaysians in India studying medicine, including dentistry.

Others matters to be discussed would include defence, including exchange of technology and cross-border crimes.

“India has been an active participant in LIMA and Defence Services Asia exhibitions. They see the shows as an important trade window to Asean markets,” he added.

He said a Malaysia-India high-level joint working committee has been formed to deal with cross-border criminals, where criminals have used both countries to hide in and escape the law.

“We have drafted a memorandum of understanding to deal with this matter and we will make a final decision later,” he added.

During Dr Ahmad Zahid’s two-day visit, he is scheduled to call on Modi and meet several Indian Cabinet ministers to discuss bilateral relations.

DPM , New Delhi