India set curbs in retaliation for comments by then PM, Mahathir Mohamad, criticising Delhi's Kashmir policy

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has set itself a target of a month within which to resolve its trade dispute with India over palm oil, the South-east Asian nation’s new commodities minister said on Wednesday (March 11).

The deadline follows this week’s swearing-in of a new Malaysian cabinet after Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin took office last month.

"One of the first moves for the new government is to rebuild the relationship with India, especially for the palm oil issue," Commodities Minister Mohd Khairuddin Aman Razali told reporters after the first meeting of the new cabinet.

India, the biggest buyer of Malaysian palm oil for five years, put curbs in January on purchases, in retaliation for then prime minister Mahathir Mohamad’s criticism of its policy on the Himalayan region of Kashmir and a new citizenship law.

Datuk Mohd Khairuddin said he wanted to send a delegation to India as soon as possible in the effort to improve ties.

"We will put this on the ministry’s first agenda," he told reporters. "I set a timeframe of a month."

Malaysia, the second biggest producer of crude palm oil after Indonesia, will look to expand its exports to new markets, such as Russia and the Middle East, he added.

After India’s January curbs on imports of refined palm oil from Malaysia, traders had also held off on buying its crude palm oil.

Malaysia’s exports to India dropped 54 per cent last month from January, data showed this week.