THERE ARE several key areas in which India and Malaysia can co-operate with vast potential for their mutual benefit. They are education, technology, tourism and trade.
In fact, much work has been done in building up activities in these fields and the recent visit by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi will serve to deepen such ties.
Education is one area where India has played a major role in helping Malaysians to study at their universities, especially in medicine.
Over the years, hundreds, if not thousands, of Malaysians have graduated from Indian medical schools thus helping the government to meet its doctor shortage.
India is an ideal place for Malaysian students as its universities have vast experience in the teaching of science and medicine. It used to be mainly Malaysian Indians who sent their children for further study due to the lower cost compared to the Western countries.
The charging of full fees by Western universities and the quota set up these tertiary institutions had made them both expensive and limited the places for Malaysians.
India was the obvious alternative and in recent years, more non-Indian Malaysians had headed towards the sub-continent for this purpose.
Another advantage is that all the medical and technical schools are taught in English thus making it easier for Malaysians to fit in. Malaysians too are familiar with Indian food, which is easily available here.
All these factors have made India the country of choice for Malaysians wishing to study medicine. In recent years, too, several local universities have teamed up with noted Indian medical schools on a twinning basks to provide places and affordable opportunities for the locals who wish to pursue medicine.
While many of the Indian medical schools are not recognised, there are still many well-known ones over there. The Indian government has co-operated by getting these universities to provide more places for Malaysians.
While there may be a few government-to-government hiccups over the years, the people-to-people relations had remained excellent.
With some10% of Malaysian population being of Indian blood, such ethnic, cultural and religious ties will continue to ensure that official disagreements will have the minimum effect on the people.
So while New Delhi might have complained over the treatment of its nationals working in Malaysia, bilateral ties on the whole remain positive.