Thursday, December 06, 2007

Divide Between India And Malaysia Deepens

A week is not even a punctuation mark in the history of nations. But how rapidly relations between India and Malaysia have deteriorated in the past week in the wake of crackdown on ethnic Indians in Malaysia can be judged from the fact that air ticket sales to Malaysia have declined by between 5 and 10 per cent in the last seven days.

Holiday package sales from India have dipped. Some customers have opted not even to stop in Malaysia in transit and have opted to reroute their flights or choose direct flights to their destinations.

“Last week, a lot of people who had bought air tickets or holiday packages to Malaysia opted for other destinations like Bangkok, Hongkong and Singapore,” said Subhash Goyal, owner of Stic Travels.

Malaysia is a hub not just for the rest of Southeast Asia but also the West. Malaysian Airlines has connecting flights to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Tokyo and even destinations in the US and Australia.

“Since people are going for a holiday, they want to enjoy themselves in peace and quiet. Ongoing problems in Malaysia could affect their choice to some extent,” said Ajay Prasad, general secretary, Travel Agents Federation of India.

Last week, the government of Malaysia used water cannons and disproportionate force against a group of 10,000 protesting Malaysians of Indian origin who have been agitating against institutional discrimination.

That the protest found resonance in India —Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi asked the Indian government to intervene — angered the Malaysian ruling elite and more than one minister commented that the Indians had it coming to them.

How much history Malaysia and India share is clear from the following:

# 8 per cent of the Malaysian population is of Indian origin, of which 90 per cent is Tamil-speaking. Both countries are former British colonies.

Indian tourist traffic, which accounts for a large chunk of Malaysia’s tourism -generated revenue, grew by 59 per cent to 285,478 as on August this year.

Agricultural commodities like potato form a major item of export from India to Malaysia.

The Malaysian national car company, Proton, is seeking to enter India at a time when globally there is no other market for automobiles.

Several Malaysian companies have bid for highway construction as part of the highways development programme.

Malaysia has no markets for the goods it produces. It used to export to China, but China is buying less and less from them. India is the only well developed market for Malaysian goods and services, including tourism,” said a diplomat.

“Ethnic problems in Malaysia are largely internal,” said a top Foreign Office official, “but we are concerned about the situation of Indians there. And we are also concerned about the repercussions.” (Business Standard)
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2:31 PM GMT+8  

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