Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi
MUHYIDDIN Bin Haji Mohammad Yasin, Malaysia’s newly sworn in Prime minister who took the charge on 01 March, announced his official Cabinet on Tuesday. Despite the change in Malaysian political leadership, it is believed that the new premier will continue the time tested legacy of Pak-Malaysian friendship established exclusively during the reign of Mahathir Mohammad, the former Malaysian leader. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s two-day working visit to Malaysia (Feb 3-4) was set to further enhance and solidify long-standing brotherly relations between the two nations. Needless to say, both Islamabad and Kula Lumpur have enhanced their ties in respective areas of bilateral and diplomatic engagement offering economic, security and political cooperation with each other.
Historically put, the diplomatic relations between Malaysia and Pakistan were initially established in 1957. Although the relations between the two countries have had experienced the high and low ebbs, but when the relations became normal via mutual trust and viable understandings, Pakistan became a supporter to the Federation of Malaysia which they refused to accept the non-inclusion of Brunei and the leaving of Singapore from the Malaysian Federation, the diversity Pakistan maintains has been that only Islamabad established relations with those countries once Kala Lumpur had done so. Pakistan and Malaysia had agreed to build a strong economic partnership and worked together on issues affecting the Muslim Ummah – since very establishment of the OIC in 1969. And since 1970 Pakistan and Malaysia are regarded as old friends along with a tested yardstick of bilateral relationship. Both are Islamic countries— playing a great and historical role in South and Southeast Asian regions.
In a steady and gradual manner, Pakistan and Malaysia tried to cement a robust relationship with the intervening efforts of Shah of Iran during the 1970s. The degree of bilateral relations during 1980s 199os and 2000s remained smooth and normal. And yet manifesting, with the installation of the PTI government in 2018, both Kuala Lumpur and Islamabad have been constantly trying to upbeat their relationship. Progressively, in 2018-19 both sides revitalized their partnership. Malaysia also invited Pakistani companies to invest in Malaysia in both manufacturing and services sectors where the companies are able to mark a considerable leverage on Malaysia’s strategic location in expanding their investment into ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific regions. In response, Pakistan also invited potential Malaysian companies to explore the possibility of investing in special economic zones to take advantage of Pakistan’s strategic location at the crossroads linking— Central, South and West Asia. Both leaders premier Khan and the then PM Mahathir reaffirmed the importance of the Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation and looked forward to the 13th Joint Committee on Defence Cooperation which will be convened in 2019 in Kuala Lumpur.
In addition, the two sides respectively agreed for regular discussions on framework to strengthen the trade and investment relations by firefighting the hurdles or barriers in key areas thereby developing linkages between the private sectors of the two countries. Both the sides also expressed and enhanced commitment to building stronger ties in the areas of defence, law enforcement, tourism and education. They agreed to more exchanges at different levels to set the future direction of bilateral relationship. The two sides reaffirmed commitment to ensure stronger collaboration amongst various ministries and agencies to enhance friendship and understanding between the two peoples. When Premier Imran Khan last met Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, ample praise for each other’s election victories took center stage.
A rich history of close cooperation – including Pakistan’s contribution to drafting Malaysia’s constitution – fuelled prospects of a wide-ranging strategic economic partnership. Addressing a joint news conference along with the Malaysian counterpart, Prime Minister Imran Khan thanked Mahathir Mohamad for extending his support to Pakistan on Kashmir dispute and speaking against the injustices being perpetrated by Indian forces in occupied Kashmir. And yet most significantly, Malaysia and Pakistan have now formally signed a treaty on extradition. Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the treaty would strengthen the bilateral relationship by enhancing security against transnational crime in both countries.” It will involve anyone including terrorists or the common criminals who try to hide and seek refuge in both countries,” he told reporters after witnessing the signing of the said treaty with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan after their meetings.
In Putrajaya (Malaysia), Prime Minister Imran said: “I want to say how sad I was that I couldn’t attend the conference in Kuala Lumpur in the middle of December. Unfortunately, our friends, who are very close to Pakistan as well, felt that somehow the conference was going to divide the Ummah. It was clearly a misconception because that was not the purpose of the conference as evident from when the conference took place. Mahathir said: “We agree on the need for regular discussions to strengthen trade relations by removing barriers in key areas and addressing the bilateral goods imbalance.
Notably, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia have been the founding fathers of the Muslim-majority D-8 group that seeks to establish strategic relations, increased trade and more cooperation among its members. However, the group is yet to realize its potential. We, Pakistanis, take high cognizance of the fact that both Turkey and Malaysia have taken a principled stand on the Kashmir issue. PM Mahathir did stop the India-Malaysia trade deal on the Palm oil without caring any economic loss to Malaysia thereby giving more and more importance to the question of international legality and morality in terms of India’s blatant violations of international law vis-à-vis the right of self-determination-cum-fundamental rights of the Kashmiris. Arguably, the first reflection of the Summit led by Turkey, Malaysia and Pakistan emerged during the days of the (UNGA) session held in September last year. In the said UNGA session, India’s culpable actions in Jammu & Kashmir were criticized by Malaysian PM Mahathir Muhammad and the Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
—The writer, an independent ‘IR’ researcher-cum-analyst based in Pakistan, is member of European Consortium for Political Research Standing Group on IR, Critical Peace & Conflict Studies, also a member of Washington Foreign Law Society and European Society of International Law.
Syed Qamar Afzal Rizvi