India has verbally asked the country's palm oil refiners and traders to avoid buying Malaysian palm oil.

According to Reuters, the boycott call was made by the government, in a meeting attended by two dozen vegetable oil industry officials, in New Delhi on Monday.

"In Monday's meeting, we have been verbally told to avoid buying Malaysian palm oil," Reuters quoted a senior official in the vegetable oil industry saying.

"We've had various rounds of meetings within the government and industry to see how we could reduce imports from Malaysia," the portal further quoted a government official.

There is, however, yet to be an official directive from New Delhi on boycotting Malaysian palm oil.

Should India proceed with the boycott plan, it would put palm oil prices under pressure as India is the world's biggest buyer of the oil. The country could switch to Indonesia, which is the world's biggest oil palm producer, for its supply, which in turn, will impact Malaysian economy as pam oil transactions account to 2.8% of the gross domestic product, and 4.5% of total exports.

Sign of protest

The boycott move is believed in protest against recent comments by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on the Jammu-Kashmir issue, as well as India's new citizenship law.

Last October, Mahathir said India has "invaded and occupied" Kashmir, when commenting on the scrapping of the special status (Article 370) accorded to the Indian-administered area in Kashmir.

The article used to give Jammu-Kashmir the power to have a separate constitution, and autonomy over the administration of the state.

Then last month, Mahathir waded into another controversy by commenting on India's newly enacted Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which he claimed was discriminatory to Muslims there.

The law, brought forward by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), provides citizenship to religious minorities from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Critics have claimed it will marginalise Muslims in the country, but New Delhi has denied it, saying it is aimed at giving sanctuary to people fleeing religious persecution instead. Violent protests against the law has thus far killed at least 25 people, across the country.

"Already people are dying because of this law, so why is there a necessity to do this when all this while, for 70 years almost, they have lived together as citizens without any problems," he had told reporters, further drawing parallels to the Chinese and Indians in Malaysia.

"If we do that here, you what will happen. There will be chaos, there will be instability and everyone will suffer.

We have accepted the Indians who came to this country, and the Chinese. We gave them citizenship even when they did not qualify and they are all in the government, ” the premier was quoted saying.

India's Ministry of External Affairs rebuked Mahathir's comment, saying the remark was "factually inaccurate", and further cautioned Malaysia from commenting on internal developments in India, especially "without a right understanding of the facts."

Source: Reuters
Photo source: Astro Awani