Malaysia drawing up an India blueprint

Last Updated 22 June 2014, 17:44 IST

With the Modi-led government focused on reviving a stagnant economy and pivoting India towards greater economic and political assertion on the global stage, Malaysia, a major player in the Asean region, is looking to capitalise on the growing business opportunities in India, especially in areas like consumable products and infrastructure development.

In an interaction with Deccan Herald’s N V Vijayakumar, Malaysian high commissioner Datuk Naimun Ashakli points out the government’s eagerness to enhance business ties with India taking into account its long historical linkages. Excerpts from the interview:

How do you view the relationship with India?

India is an important partner for Malaysia in Asia with a history dating back to the 18th century when plantation workers were brought to Penang during the heydays of the East India Company.

Even though our bilateral trade started way back, the total trade with India was only $12.3 billion in the January-November 2013 period. But here we should realise that Malaysia-China trade is now at $95 billion. We expect huge opportunities in India to expand our relationship, via trade and culture.

What is the prospect for India-Malaysia trade?

Trade volumes between both countries increased more than fourfold in the 2003 -2012 period. While Malaysia’s main exports are palm oil, electrical and electronic products, crude petroleum, chemicals and transport equipment, India’s exports have been confined to refined petrol products, live animals and meat, agras-produce and cereal.
We expanded our prowess enormously in verticals like manufacturing and infrastructure and are ready to replicate it in India which demands these for accelerating its growth further.

Can you share your experience on industrialisation in Malaysia?

We unlocked our economy in 1973 by bringing in more multinational corporations which brought in investments and technology. They improved infrastructure  and manufacturing segment in ourcountry. Since we learned many things from them,  we later replicated this model in our country and are now widening it by exploring new opportunities in other geographies.

Besides our multi-lingual and multi-culture structure with the ethnic groups like Malays, Acehnese, Arabs, Armenians, British, Burmese, Germans, Jews, Chinese, Indians (Gujaratis, Bengalis, Punjabis, Sindhis, Tamils, Malayalees),  Japanese, Thais, Rawas, Javanese, Mandailings, Portuguese, Eurasians and others, our strong political leadership with Malaysia’s unique positioning in the Asia-Pacific region with less natural climate gave enough impetus to our development.

Can you elaborate on the opportunities that you view in India?

With India traditionally relying on investments from Japan, Korea, Europe and the US, in the last five years we have seen a lot more investments by Malaysian companies as well.

The Mumbai monorail project, constructed by Malaysian company Scomi Engineering, along with L&T and opening up other manufacturing units in India, really shows the growing importance given by our country for India. Besides infrastructure, automotive industries, we are giving emphasis on manufacturing and SMEs. We are also giving high priority to the tourism sector.

How do you view the technological and IT prowess of India?

We are looking at more close relationship on these fronts with India. For this, we are looking at opportunities like specific tie-ups with Indian universities and laboratories.

On IT, we have solid relations with Indian companies. TCS and Tech Mahindra have opened their own facilities in India. TCS is a fairly big employer in the ICT sector and has created employment for 1,300 people.

What is the USP of Malaysia for India to expand its position economically and politically?
Malaysia is positioned geographically as a window to Asean and also to the global manufacturing hub of China. Our cultural and religious mix also gives an advantage for Malaysia in the region. We have also done substantially well in the manufacturing, infrastructure and hydrocarbon areas.

What are your expectations on the trade front from India?

In the first quarter of 2014, total trade between India and Malaysia reached more than $3 billion. Of this, Malaysia’s  imports from India reached more than $1 billion and India’s imports from Malaysia nearly $2 billion.

India-Malaysia trade has increased by 5 per cent to reach $13.3 billion in 2013. The Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), established in 1993, is actively involved in enhancing trade activities by promoting business-to-business relationship. We have already organised three trade fairs in India. We also have Malaysia Investment Development Authority and Tourism Malaysia to finetune our tie-ups. India is Malaysia’s tenth largest trading partner and the only country in the Asean region having double free trade agreement.

What is your roadmap for investment in India?

Malaysia’s total investment in India till now is valued at $2.75 billion involving sectors like construction, oil and gas, architecture, logistics and transportation, IT and project management services. We are ready to incorporate a separate entity to facilitate more investments in India.

How do you view trade barriers imposed on Malaysian imports?

We know that there are few internal compulsions for India to put trade barrier, especially in the solar energy segment, by hiking import duties. But here, we would like to say that all should get a level playing field so that the relationship will mature and flourish and help to reach greater milestones.

(Published 22 June 2014, 17:44 IST)

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