Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday sought the extradition of controversial Indian televangelist Zakir Naik, who is wanted in India for fuelling terrorism, when he met Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on the sidelines of the fifth meeting of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) held here in the Russian Far East Region.
“Prime Minister Modi raised the issue of Zakir Naik’s extradition. Both the parties have decided that our officials will stay in contact regarding the matter and it is an important issue for us,” Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said on PM Modi’s meeting with Mr. Mahathir.
Mr. Naik, a 53-year-old radical Islamic preacher, reportedly left India in 2016 and subsequently moved to Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation, where he was granted permanent residency.
He has been banned from from any public activities in the multi-ethnic country after his remarks against Malaysian Hindus and Chinese on August 8.
Prime Minister Modi also discussed with Mr. Mahathir the “reorganisation” and the developments related to Jammu and Kashmir. They growing threat of terrorism also figured in their talks.
“PM Modi explained to Mr. Mahathir the rationale behind the reorganisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in terms of both giving effective governance and delivering socio-economic justice. And in that context the two leaders discussed the focus was on terrorism, on how to combat the growing threat of terrorism,” Mr. Gokhale said.
“PM Mahathir acknowledged that terrorism was a global problem and Malaysia is against any form terrorism,” he added.
Malaysia for “utmost restraint” in J&K
India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5 and has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was an internal matter and also advised Pakistan to accept the reality. Pakistan is trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue after India’s decision on August 5.
Hours after India’s move, Prime Minister Imran Khan held phone conversation with Mahathir and sought support on the issue.
Prime Minister Mahathir expressed hope that India and Pakistan would exercise “utmost restraint” to prevent further escalation that could be detrimental to the peace and stability in Jammu and Kashmir.
This is the second meeting between the two leaders, the first was in May last year when Prime Minister Modi called on 94-year-old Mahathir in Putrajaya.
Mr. Gokhale said that the meeting between the two prime ministers was “very warm“.
“Modi also described Mr. Mahathir’s election as a historic one and said India was looking forward to working with Malaysia,” Mr. Gokhale added.
There was also discussion on trade and ways to diversify the bilateral ties to benefit people in both the countries.
“Mahathir acknowledged that there was a growing trade between the two countries, but that Malaysia had a surplus in trade. He assured Modi that while we should grow this trade, Malaysia is looking at ways by which we can balance this trade. He (Mahathir) said, Malaysia would consider importing more from India so that India’s exports to Malaysia grow,” he said.
“Meetings continue in Vladivostok. Prime Ministers @chedetofficial and Narendra Modi discuss ways to diversify India-Malaysia cooperation for the benefit of people in both countries. Strengthening ties with an important ASEAN partner,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a tweet.
Mr. Modi arrived in Russia on Wednesday to participate in the 20th India-Russia annual summit and the EEF. On his arrival, the Prime Minister Modi received a guard of honour at Vladivostok International Airport.
The forum focuses on development of business and investment opportunities in the Russian Far East Region, and presents enormous potential for developing close and mutually beneficial cooperation between India and Russia in the region.
The EEF is being held in Russia’s Far East port city of Vladivostok on September 4-6.