The early days of the pandemic in 2020 were also a time when Malaysia-India relations were at an all-time low. Former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had angered India with remarks on Kashmir and India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) at the end of 2019¹ and New Delhi responded by asking palm oil refiners and traders to avoid buying Malaysian palm oil.
This diplomatic row even brought about trade-related repercussions. In January 2020, India’s palm oil imports from Malaysia dropped to 46,876 tonnes, the lowest since 2011.² A thaw in relations came with Putrajaya’s change in leadership. In March 2020, New Delhi took steps to reset ties with Putrajaya. Then Indian high commissioner Shri Mridul Kumar paid a call to former prime minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and former foreign minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein shortly after they took office. This “start-over” was crucial, considering how the next few months required that Malaysia and India work to address several pandemic-related issues.