KUALA LUMPUR: India and Malaysia, Southeast Asia’s economic powerhouse, have enhanced their strategic partnership by signing three pacts, including a crucial pact on cyber security, and decided to expand scale up their infrastructure and economic ties by envisaging a more proactive role for Kuala Lumpur in India’s development journey.
Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak rolled out the red carpet for India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the prime ministerial office at Perdana Square in Putrajaya and pitched for more robust economic and strategic relations with Asia’s third largest economy.
The prime ministers of the two countries held wide-ranging talks in restricted format as well as delegation-level talks on November 23 to firm up an overarching vision for taking the India-Malaysia strategic partnership, forged five years ago, to new heights, with an added emphasis on expanding security and counter-terror cooperation.
“I assure you that we will work with renewed vigour to raise the level and momentum of our partnership,” said Mr Modi at a joint media interaction with his Malaysian counterpart.
The Indian leader lauded the Malaysian prime minister’s vision on global movement of moderates and reiterated his call for delinking terror from religion as he sought enhanced counter-terror cooperation with Malaysia.
“The recent spate of attacks in different countries, not to mention the ceaseless terrorist attempts against India and Afghanistan, are a reminder of the global nature of this threat,” said Mr Modi.
“Mr. Prime Minister, you have provided leadership in combating extremism and radicalization, rejecting any link between terrorism and religion, and in highlighting the real values of Islam,” said the Indian prime minister.
“This is a great contribution to an important aspect of our global efforts against this challenge,” he added.
Mr Modi also pitched for buttressing defence cooperation, including for advancing maritime security and strengthening disaster response in the region.
Most important, Mr Modi sought a more vigorous role by Malaysian companies in partnering in development journey of India, including defining schemes of national renewal like Make in India and Smart Cities.
“I expressed our desire to see enhanced Malaysian participation in areas such as expansion and upgrading of infrastructure, Make in India, and Smart Cities projects,” he said.
The three MoUs were signed after the talks, which encompassed diverse areas, including cooperation in cyber security, public administration and culture.
The MoU on cyber security between the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) and Cyber Security Malaysia, the agreement will promote cooperation and exchange of information on cyber security incident management, cyber-attacks, technological cooperation, prevalent policies and mutual response to cyber security incidents.
The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) and Malaysia’s Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) have signed an MoU which will promote cooperation in management, delivery and monitoring of government programmes to improve efficiency and develop tools to monitor performance.
India’s culture ministry and Malaysia’s culture and tourism ministry have sealed an agreement that will bolster cultural exchanges and cooperation through visits of delegations and troupes, art exhibitions and exchange visits by scholars and experts.
Mr Modi described the agreement on cyber security as “very important”. “As our lives get more networked, this is emerging as one of the most serious concerns of our age,” Mr Modi said.
The two leaders agreed that bilateral trade and investment ties could be “scaled up significantly” by exploiting bilateral and India-ASEAN agreements. “We look forward to an early conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement,” Mr Modi added.
Mr Razak described Mr Modi as a “man of action” and said India wants to conclude an official agreement to build a convention centre in New Delhi. “I am excited about the new possibilities that we can do together with India,” Mr Razak added.
“We also discussed defence cooperation as India has a very dynamic and strong defence industry. Both ministries will discuss on the possibilities of expanding our bilateral cooperation, which includes joint production,” Mr Razak said.
Bilateral trade between India and Malaysia stood at USD14 billion in 2014. This included imports of USD 9.7 billion, mainly commodities, mineral fuels and animal and vegetable oils.
Malaysia has investments exceeding USD 7 billion in India and completed projects worth USD 6 billion, particularly in the infrastructure and construction sectors. India’s investments in Malaysia are around USD 2.3 billion with Indian companies such as IRCON, Reliance, Kirloskar, Bajaj, TCS, Mahindra, L&T and Wipro having a presence in the country.
The decision to conclude an agreement on mutual recognition of educational degrees is an important takeaway from the talks, and will bolster educational exchanges and people-to-people contacts between the two countries.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.