Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman explores the impact of Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s visit to India and traces the history of bilateral ties.
India was among the first countries to recognise us when Malaya gained independence in 1957. This year, we celebrate 60 years of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and India.
It is an important milestone in a relationship characterised by common historical, social and cultural links.
Malaysia-India relations stretch back millennia; they are wide, deep, strong and indissoluble.
However, like any relationship, it needs to be rejuvenated and renewed from time to time, lest complacency set in. In an increasingly interconnected world, exchanges between leaders of countries are one of the most important ways to achieve this.
At the invitation of Shri Narenda Modi, Prime Minister of the Republic of India, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia, is again making a State Visit to India from March 30 to April 4.
This will be Najib’s third visit to India since assuming office as prime minister in 2009.
The upcoming visit will enable Najib to renew personal contacts, and to build closer rapport and understanding with the Indian leadership. Both Najib and Modi have met on numerous occasions, both in bilateral and multilateral settings.
The upcoming visit to India not only signifies a continuation of the close and cordial relations, but is also testimony of both countries’ commitment to foster closer, more multifaceted ties.
Since the establishment of bilateral relations six decades ago, significant progress in overall bilateral cooperation – including in the political, economic, trade, cultural, education, health, tourism, agriculture, defence and other fields – has been achieved.
Although both countries have had close and cordial bilateral relations for the past 60 years, Malaysia-India relations really took off after Najib came to power in 2009.
Not many people know this, but Najib is the first Malaysian Prime Minister to have visited India within the first year of assuming office.
Under his stewardship, Malaysia-India relations witnessed the elevation of bilateral relations to a strategic partnership in October 2010.
Less than a year later in 2011, the Malaysia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (MICECA), better known as the Malaysia-India FTA, was concluded and enforced. MICECA is the basis for the further enhancement of trade and economic ties.
A high-level Malaysia-India CEOs Forum was also launched in 2010 to provide ideas to the two governments on improvements in the business environment and on measures for enhancing investment and trade flows.
India also established the Indian Cultural Centre in Kuala Lumpur in 2010, which has been playing such an important role in encouraging wider cultural exchanges between both countries.
Malaysia-India bilateral relations are at an important juncture of building on past achievements for a brighter future.
We have enjoyed a healthy relationship based on mutual trust and respect, while we have expanded our ties in a wide range of areas such as business, trade and infrastructure development.
Educational exchanges continue to be mutually beneficial as students from both countries study in each other’s universities while the flow of tourists increases from year to year, further cementing people-to-people relations.
At present, there are 2,238 Indian students in Malaysia, while last year 638,578 Indian tourists visited the country.
Najib’s upcoming visit to India aims to reaffirm this mutual commitment.
As the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I firmly believe that this visit will achieve its goal in advancing the two countries’ common interests and shared values. Over the course of this visit, our prime minister will hold discussions with Modi on bilateral, regional and international issues of common interest.
Both prime ministers will be witnessing the signing of bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding which will further enhance bilateral cooperation.
Najib is scheduled to address a Business Luncheon in New Delhi aimed to further enhance bilateral trade and investment.
In this regard, there has been a surge in Malaysian private sector initiatives in India, particularly in the infrastructure sector.
Indeed, Malaysian construction companies’ largest presence outside Malaysia is in India.
During Modi’s 2015 visit to Malaysia, both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to take the Strategic Partnership to the next level by deepening existing areas and exploring new areas of cooperation.
With the current uncertain international situation, both leaders recognise the need for greater interdependence to counter new global challenges.
As countries committed to establishing a rules-based approach to international relations, countering the spread of violent extremism and promoting moderation, stronger bilateral ties are not only beneficial for both countries, but also for the regional and international order as well.
The two countries have acknowledged the reality that now, bilateral relations are ready to accelerate even further.
Looking ahead, I am confident that both countries will re-commit ourselves to elevate bilateral cooperation for the collective benefit of both countries, and the world at large.