DATUK Ramli Ibrahim, the Malaysian dancer/choreographer and founder of the Sutra dance company, received the prestigious Padma Shri Award from the President of India two years ago. This award was in recognition of Ramli’s contribution in promoting the Indian classical dance style of Odissi in Malaysia and all over the world. Ramli has done more to cultivate the relationship between two countries than all the diplomats from both countries over many decades.
Padma Shri Ramli, a distinguished alumnus of the Royal Military College of Malaysia, has an endearing personality and exudes an aura of genuineness and warmth wherever he goes.
Currently, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Ramli are probably the two Malaysians best known to the people of India, although for different reasons. One has spent 40 or so years of his life engaging with the artistes and cultural organisations of India, while the other has been recently responsible for eroding diplomatic and business ties between the two countries.
The Indian diplomat Veena Sikri wrote in her book India And Malaysia: Intertwined Strands (2013): “The three years I spent as India’s High Commissioner to Malaysia (September 2000 to December 2003) were among the most memorable years of my career with the Indian Foreign Service. The urge to research and work on this book came from the growing realisation of the minimal awareness about the rich history of interaction between our two nations and peoples.”
Veena refers to historical ties between the peoples of South and South-East Asia that go back 2,000 years, “driven by trade, religion and culture”.
Cordial links between Malaysia and India that have existed for so long should be valued and further strengthened. Unfortunately, Malaysia’s current leadership does not seem to appreciate the importance of bilateral ties built on
mutual respect and deep cultural DNA that stretch back for millennia. Leaders should forge relationships that further the interests of their country and their people and not engage in rhetoric with possible negative economic consequences
to the detriment of innocent citizens who toil daily to make ends meet.
Given the negative impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on many Malaysian business sectors, the deterioration of the India-Malaysia relationship further compounds the challenges faced by Malaysia in sustaining and maintaining economic growth.
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