Dr Mahathir Muhammad’s visit both the nations further close

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Pakistan and Malaysia enjoy cordial economic and strategic relations and both are further cementing their ties for mutual benefits. In this connection, high level of exchanges have played key role because leadership of both the countries seems very enthusiastic for the promotion of bilateral ties. A brief look on the history of diplomatic relations between Malaysia and Pakistan reveals that diplomatic ties were established in 1957 after the former’s independence.

In the early years of its inception, the High Commission of Malaysia was placed in Karachi, which was the capital city of Pakistan then. However, in 1968, the High Commission was moved to Islamabad after it was declared as the new capital city. Pakistan became a supporter to the Federation of Malaysia and refused to accept the non-inclusion of Brunei and the leasing of Singapore from the Malaysian Federation. Pakistan only established relations with those countries when Malaysia had done so.

On 2 October 2005, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi held out assurance to Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz during an hour-long meeting that Malaysia will support Pakistan’s bid for a full dialogue partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Following this, two Honorary Consulates were established in Karachi in 1977 and later in Lahore in 1993. Recognising the importance of Pakistan and Malaysia relations since 1957, the Consulate General of Malaysia in Karachi was instituted in 2004 that is led by a Consul General.
On 21 November 2018, Malaysia and Pakistan agreed to establish bilateral consultations between the two senior officials of their Foreign Affairs ministry as the mechanism to intensify engagements between both sides. On 25 February 2019, the inaugural session of bilateral consultations between Malaysia and Pakistan was held in Islamabad. The Pakistan side was led by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua while Secretary General of Malaysian Foreign Affairs Ministry Muhammad Shahrul Ikram Yaakob headed the Malaysian side. Detailed discussions were held on regional and global issues including the situation in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Palestine with the two sides reaffirmed their resolve to promote closer co-operation between them.

Mahathir Mohamad is one of the few international leaders whom Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chairman Imran Khan has always admired. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish President; Brazil’s Lula da Silva; and Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore were the other leaders he said looked up.

His eloquence, breathtaking knowledge of global affairs, and stubborn commitment to perfection secured him a spot in the pantheon of the great men of history. Some see him as the modern embodiment of Plato’s philosopher-king. But the Singaporean leader never had the chance to test his skills at ruling a conventional country with its own complex rural-urban dynamics. Mahathir ruled over a mid-sized country and, over two decades of his rule steered Malaysia, long torn by urban-rural and ethnic tensions, towards a modicum of industrialisation and upper-middle-income prosperity.
Politically, Mahathir, at the age of 92, played an unlikely yet momentous role – as the harbinger of the democratic transformation of Malaysia. In direct contrast to his authoritarian past, this year saw Mahathir leading a democratic opposition to power for the first time in the country’s history. Instead of perpetuating himself or his family in power, Mahathir is focused on stabilising the process of regime change and holding the Najib administration accountable for its widespread corruption.

Geopolitically, Mahathir is now the leading voice against the new colonialism of China, cancelling up to $40 billion in Chinese investment projects due to concerns over corruption, lack of economic viability, and exclusion of Malaysian labour and companies. Meanwhile, he is also standing up to Western hegemony and Donald Trump’s Islamophobic rhetoric and policies.
In this sense, Mahathir represents the true spirit of an independent foreign policy. At once and at last, Mahathir may have become both the voice of freedom for his nation as well as of collective autonomy for smaller countries squeezed between the imperialism of the West and the East.

In November last, Dr Mahathir Mohamad vocally said that he believed Malaysia and Pakistan shared remarkable similarities in the sense that both nations are now led by new governments mandated by the people. He said that while both countries also inherited similar problems in many areas from their previous administrations, they also shared a similar vision in their desire to eradicate corruption and address economic issues in order to develop their countries further.

“Now is the time for us to move together. I believe in the importance of cooperation that is based on mutual respect; successful and dynamic relations between Malaysia and Pakistan would contribute to our own prosperity and stability.

I’m happy to see that the new Pakistani government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan, is steering Pakistan towards progress and a corruption-free country. Historic reforms have been carried out under his leadership that have made Pakistan more open and competitive. Together, we can realise out combined potentials and achieve better lives for our people, he said during an official luncheon hosted by the prime minister for his Pakistani counterpart at Seri Perdana.

Dr Mahathir also said both leaders were able to discuss many areas of bilateral cooperation and take stock of the progress in political and economic matters. With our economic cooperation showing positive growth, I believe there is more that could be done for our bilateral trade to grow. I would also like acknowledge the opportunities and confidence given by the prime minister to a number of Malaysian companies currently involved in various projects in Pakistan. I hope more Malaysian companies will be given the opportunity to be more involved in Pakistan’s economy.
As anticipated that visit of Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohammad would to herald new vistas of economic cooperation; this has happened as much true because Pakistan and Malaysia sign MoUs for five major projects. Pakistan and Malaysia signed memorandums of understanding for cooperation in five major projects in the car assembly, meat, telecom and stone sectors. Malaysia has invited Pakistan to participate in a defence exhibition where Pakistan will showcase its JF17-Thunder the fighter jet it indigenously developed in collaboration with China. Malaysia has also expressed an interest in purchasing rice and halal meat from Pakistan. Pakistan will soon implement an agreement to export anti-tank missiles to Malaysia. Both countries have agreed to open branches of their banks in each other’s countries, he said. The finance minister added that Pakistan will capitalize on the Malaysian experience in the tourism industry.

Malaysia has shown keen interest in procuring JF-17 Thunder fighter planes and anti-tank missiles from Pakistan. The visiting delegation sought participation of JF-17 Thunder aircraft in a defence fair to be held in Malaysia in the near future. Both sides agreed on business and investment worth hundreds of millions of dollars in diverse fields. Malaysia would import Halal meat and rice from Pakistan, while the two sides also agreed to open branches of their banks in the two countries. Pakistan expects investments of $900 million during the Malaysian prime minister’s visit. The investments would come in different sectors of the economy including telecoms, information technology and food and Pakistan and Malaysia would be interested in promoting business to business relations and would also strengthen ties between their private sectors for tapping investment opportunities.

It is officially stated that Mahathir Mohamad, paid a state visit to Pakistan on the invitation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, accompanied by a high-level delegation including several leading businessmen. He was accorded a ceremonial welcome at the Prime Minister House. Both Prime Ministers held delegation level talks. In view of the growing momentum of bilateral cooperation it was agreed to elevate the Pakistan-Malaysia relationship to a Strategic partnership.

Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad stressed the need for converting friendship between the two counties into cooperation. Both sides agreed that dialogue was the only way to ensure peace and stability in the region and to resolve outstanding issues. Both sides expressed deep concern at the growing wave of Islamophobia and condemned the atrocities and human rights violations being committed against Muslims around the world. Prime Minister Imran Khan briefed Prime Minister Mahathir on the gross human rights violations in IOK and the importance of the resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people.

The two sides exchanged official Notes regarding ratification of the Agreement on Partial Abolition of Visa Requirement for Diplomatic and Official Passport holders, recently signed between the two countries. The two Prime Ministers addressed a Round Table Business Forum, which was attended by a large number of Malaysian and Pakistani Business leaders. Flagship Malaysian companies Proton and Edotco, in automobile and telecom sectors respectively, announced their investment agreements during the Business Forum. The two Prime Ministers witnessed the ground-breaking ceremony of Proton Automobile Industry in Pakistan and signing of three important Agreements/MOUs between Edotco and Pakistan Mobile Telecommunication companies.
Dr Mahathir called on Dr. Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan. The two leaders exchanged a wide range of views of mutual interest. President of Pakistan conferred Pakistan’s highest civil award ‘Nishan-e-Pakistan’ Dr. Mahathir in recognition of his leadership, role for the Islamic world and work towards strengthening Pakistan-Malaysia bilateral relations in all fields. The President of Pakistan also hosted a state banquet for the visiting Prime Minister at the ‘Aiwan-e-Sadr’.

Prime Minister Tun Dr.Mahathir Mohamad was the Guest of Honour at the Pakistan Day Parade on 23rd March. It has been a great honour for people of Pakistan to have one of the most admired leader of the Islamic world to celebrate with them the national day of Pakistan. The visit of Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad provided an opportunity to further cement and elevate strategic relationship between the two countries.

The communiqué issued on the conclusion of visit Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Prime Minister Imran Khan held a restricted meeting and both leaders held fruitful and in-depth discussions, which took place in a warm and cordial atmosphere. The discussion covered a wide range of bilateral, regional and international issues of mutual interests. Both sides took note of the exchange of notes and the ratification of the MoU on the Partial Abolition of Visa Requirement for Diplomatic and Official Passport holders, signed between the two countries during visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan from 20-21 November 2018.

The two Leaders took note that the 1st Bilateral Consultations between the Foreign Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan and the Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, as a mechanism to intensify the engagements between both sides, was successfully held on 25 February 2019 in Islamabad, Pakistan. The 1st Bilateral Consultations between both countries had covered various issues of mutual concerns such as debt management and anti-corruption, defence cooperation, labour matters, consular matters, as well as, regional and international dynamics.

Both Leaders acknowledged the successful convening of the 13th Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation (JCDC) which was held from 26-27 February 2019 in Kuala Lumpur. Malaysia invited Pakistan to participate in the upcoming Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) from 26-30 March 2019. Dr. Mahathir Mohamad expressed his sincere appreciation to the President of Pakistan, His Excellency Dr. ArifAlwi for hosting a State Banquet and bestowing him with the Nishan-e-Pakistan (Order of Pakistan), Pakistan’s highest civil award.
Both Leaders agreed that the existing relations between Pakistan-Malaysiabe elevated to a Strategic Partnership. It marked a new level of the bilateral cooperation between both countries in various fields, namely trade in palm oil, agricultural products, food retail, halal products, automotive parts, energy, science and technology, and telecommunication investment. This new level of partnership will entail further engagement and enhance cooperation between the two countries. Both sides reaffirmed their shared desire to maintain close high-level contacts, deepen friendly exchanges of visits and cooperation in all fields, as well as, to actively promote Pakistan-Malaysia relations.

In landmark cooperation in the automotive industry between Pakistan-Malaysia, both the premiers jointly officiated the Symbolic Ground-Breaking Ceremony of PROTON plant in Islamabad, Pakistan which will boost the manufacturing and services industry for both countries. Pakistan and Malaysia reaffirmed the importance of the cooperation between the private sectors of both countries. Both Leaders witnessed the signing of Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding in the field of investment and cooperation, particularly in the telecommunication sector. They also acknowledged that this investment would serves to promote and strengthen the economic ties between both countries.

Both Leaders underpinned their shared desire to strengthen bilateral economic ties, expand trade and investment, to create favourable conditions for commerce and business in both countries. Malaysia expressed hope that Pakistan would continue to import more Malaysian palm oil and palm oil-based products, as well as, remove any non-tariff barriers on Malaysian goods and products.

Both sides reaffirmed the Malaysia-Pakistan Closer Economic Partnership Agreement (MPCEPA) signed on 8 November 2007 and welcomed the growing momentum in the bilateral economic relations. They stressed on the need to convene the next MPCEPA Joint Committee Meeting as soon as possible. Malaysia took note of the massive counter-terrorism efforts that Pakistan has successfully undertaken in an effort to eliminate terrorism. The two Leaders agreed on the need to enhance educational ties particularly in the institutions of higher learning, technical and vocational training between Malaysia and Pakistan. They agreed that close cooperation in higher education and vocational training are critical elements to the next phase of relationship.

Tourism and youth exchanges have also been identified as key drivers in promoting greater people-to-people contact and sustainable socio-economic growth, and in fostering mutual understanding between the two countries. Both Leaders noted the growing momentum for halal products among consumers worldwide. Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad conveyed his readiness to share Malaysia’s experience and expertise in the halal industry with Pakistan.

As two peace-loving Islamic nations, the two Leaders agreed to increase their collaborative efforts to uphold the true values of Islam in international fora while strengthening the solidarity of the Muslim Ummah. Both sides reaffirmed their commitments to collaborate more closely on issues affecting the Muslim world including taking joint efforts in underscoring Muslim sensitivities that target Muslim holy personalities and religious belief. Both stressed that terrorism cannot be associated with any religion or belief.

Both Leaders exchanged views on the situation in Palestine and in the Rakhine State, Myanmar involving Rohingya Muslims. On the Palestinian issue, both countries agreed to contribute positively in other forums, especially in the OIC Committee of Six on Palestine, of which Malaysia and Pakistan are members. Prime Minister Imran Khan briefed Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir on the grave human rights situation in Kashmir and in this regard referred to the Reports of UNOHCHR, Amnesty International, International People’s Tribunal and All Parties Parliamentary Kashmir Group, UK. He also discussed the role of OIC Contact Group on Kashmir to highlight the issue.

Prime Minister Tun. Dr. Mahathir Mohamad expressed deep appreciation and gratitude to Prime Minister Imran Khan and the people of Pakistan for their warm welcome and generous hospitality extended during their stay in Pakistan.

About Amna Malik 40 Articles
Author is the President, Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR) and Editor-in-Chief of ‘Mélange int’l Magazine’ and ‘ The Asian Telegraph’.