Malaysia and India should aim for a win-win partnership in trade

V Thomas

Modified 25 Feb 2020, 2:09 am

LETTER | The imbalance in trade between Malaysia and India has not been given any publicity or prominence in the controversy about India reducing its import of Malaysian palm oil.

The trade deficit to India is about US$4 billion yearly and India continues to be in this unfavourable position for decades.

Surely this imbalance has to be rectified, and Malaysia needs to import more from India for a healthier balance of trade for a win-win relationship.

India is partially to blame for this as presently, the country offers a limited range of export items Malaysians would want to buy.

India needs to showcase a larger variety of products that attract Malaysians in line with India’s advancement in various fields, especially in the IT sector.

Also, there are poor marketing strategies by Indian firms to get a larger slice of the Malaysian market.

One could be excused if one thinks that the limited array of items sold in the “little Indias” is all that India can offer.

These items- textiles, sarees, trinkets and pickles - cannot address the deficit India faces and it has to opt for more substantial products and services.

The Malaysian government, through its multi-billion ringgit procurement programme can purchase a vast range of products and services to address the deficit which India incurs mainly due to its large-scale purchase of Malaysian palm oil.

Malaysia can utilise India’s expertise from agriculture to pharmaceutical and veterinary products at cheaper rates compared to other countries.

It is also disappointing to note the ineffectiveness of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) conferences held annually around January or February.

Apart from it being a talk shop, nothing significant comes out of these meetings.

Malaysia usually sends a large delegation to these talkathons and neither Malaysia nor India benefits by way of this large number of participants.

Look at how the Chinese diaspora helped China during its economic reforms programme that began during the 1980s before international investors and multi-nationals made what China is today- the No 2 economic superpower in the world.

China and India started their economic reform programmes around the same time but India lags far behind.

The Indian diaspora, equally resourceful as their Chinese counterpart, has not been able to help or transform India.

The blame should fall on the Indian bureaucracy, democracy, kleptocracy, media and judiciary - all of whom frighten foreign investors away.

The Indian Embassy in Malaysia needs to be more pro-active in trying to expand Indian exports to Malaysia.

It needs to pressure the Malaysian government on various issues.

The Indian High Commission has to show more trail-blazing and dynamic leadership to take advantage of the long-standing bond between the two countries.

This can be seen by a large number of scholarships given to Malaysian students annually.

A few years back, there were efforts by an Indian Bank to start operations locally, but all kinds of rules and requirements by Bank Negara Malaysia aborted the endeavour.

Look at how the Bank of China is helping Malaysia-China trade and also the local Chinese business fraternity.

There were also efforts some years ago for a cruise ship plying between Malaysia and India but some vested interests put a damper on this enterprise that had enormous tourism value.

It must also be noted that there is a discriminatory factor against Indian products, especially when one considers the fate of the Tata buses and trucks and later the Mahindra Jeeps.

Only proper and sustainable marketing strategies will overcome this.

Malaysia has around two million people of Indian ancestry and they can be an anchor of commercial support for Indian exports to Malaysia.

Both Malaysia and India are fast developing and there is plenty of room for cooperation, trade and investment, and joint ventures in various fields including education.

India can open a large industrial park in Malaysia, just like China, and export a wide array of products abroad besides providing employment opportunities, especially to Indian Malaysians.

There are always good prospects for increasing trade and cooperation between Malaysia and India despite short term controversies and criticisms.

The diplomatic bond between the two will always be close and the ties are here to stay.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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