DATUK Seri Najib Tun Razak has yet again proven his close ties with India’s top leader.
Emerging upbeat from his meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, their second here in nine months, the Prime Minister said he had brought up several important issues which his host agreed to review.
“I asked that he reconsider the tariff increase to 30% on palm oil as this is quite steep. India is our second largest buyer of palm oil. India will look into our request,” he told Malaysian journalists before wrapping up his visit to the Indian capital to attend the Asean-India Commemorative Summit.
Last November, India raised its import tax on crude palm oil from 15% to 30%, while duties on refined palm oil were hiked to 40% from 25%, in a move to protect its farmers.
This was the highest import tax increase on edible oil by India, the world’s biggest importer of the commodity, in over a decade.
Asked if he had suggested that the tariff be reduced to between 20% and 25%, Najib said this was something to be weighed by the Indian government.
Najib also revealed that Modi agreed to consider granting more air traffic rights for Malaysia into India.
He said of the extra 1,861 weekly seats allotted to Malaysia under a breakthrough Air Services Agreement, signed during his visit here in April, “almost 99% of the quota has been used up”.
“Modi has offered to open up more of India’s second-tier cities to Malaysia,” he said.
Malaysia has been seeking additional traffic rights to India in a series of talks held between 2010 and last year.
Malaysia Airlines, AirAsia and Malindo Air are the local airlines operating services to India from Malaysia.
The Modi-Najib meeting also covered defence and military co-operation, specifically on the use of Sukhoi aircrafts and Scorpene submarines by both countries.
“India proposed to hold joint air exercises with Malaysia and I agreed. They have the experience on maintenance and serviceability of the Sukhoi.
“The Indian navy also has the Scorpene, which we were criticised for buying. It is actually one of the better submarines around,” he added.
Najib also announced that IJM Corp Bhd, one of Malaysia’s largest construction groups, was being considered for a US$350mil (RM1.36bil) highway project in India, and also for Maybank Malaysia to set up a branch here.
On requests by the Indian side, Najib said Malaysia was considering awarding the bid to build a railway bypass to Ircon International Ltd, India’s famed engineering and construction company specialising in transport infrastructure.
The project, estimated at between RM4bil and RM6bil, is to redevelop the 83km Port Klang-Seremban line with tracks for freight to be built to bypass KL Sentral, where most of the country’s rail traffic converges and creates a bottleneck.
The bypass would de-congest the heart of the Klang Valley, with cargo going directly to Port Klang.
Najib said India’s interest to build a huge third port at Pulau Carey in Port Klang, which would raise the container handling capacity to 30 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units), was also being looked into.
On overall Malaysia-India trade, Najib said the volume was on the rise again with a 22.3% increase registered over the first 11 months last year, bringing the amount to US$13.2bil (RM51.48bil).
Earlier in the day, Najib was among 10 Asean leaders, who witnessed the historic 69th Republic Day parade held in the Indian capital.
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