Mahathir Mohamad’s resurgence gives India a great opportunity to bolster India-Malaysia relations. Experts believe that India must engage with Malaysia seriously given the opportunities that are on offer. 93-year-old Mahathir Mohamad is an articulate man of strong opinions and he has intrepidly shown a red flag to China’s massive One Belt One Road projects in Malaysia.
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Since Mahathir Mohamad assumed the office of the Prime Minister, he has been keen on cutting down on the huge debts Malaysia finds itself caught in. As a part of this strategy, he has called off the projects assigned to Chinese firms under the previous government of Najib Razak.
Najib Razak is known for his inclination towards China but that is not the case with Mahathir Mohamad. Now when the Malaysian Prime Minister has driven out the mega infrastructure projects that China was supposed to construct in Malaysia, it is time for India to engage with Malaysia.
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Gross financial management and increasing national debt were the primary reasons why Najib Razak was ousted from power. During his 5 day visit to China, Mahathir Mohamad maintained that he wants cordial relations with China but he also maintained his opposition to the expensive OBOR projects which will further push Malaysia into the debt trap it is already battling.
India might have distanced itself from the Joint initiative launched by Australia, Japan and the US to counter the OBOR but India does share concerns about the increasing Chinese footprint in the region. Aligning Malaysia with the policies of New Delhi will give India a great chance to chop China’s radiating regional influence under the clout of the highly ambitious One Belt One Road initiative through which China hopes to revive the traditional silk route.
Given that the new government in Malaysia is not as pro-China as the previous one, India must invest its diplomacy in building a strategic partnership with Malaysia and it is a golden opportunity that India must not miss at any cost. Malaysia would hold the key for India’s ambitions to cripple the growing regional influence of China.