NEW DELHI: Visiting Malaysian PM Najib Razak extolled the virtues of the humble south Indian idli as Indian and Malaysian companies signed investment deals worth $36 billion or about Rs 2.45 lakh crore.
Addressing Indian business leaders here as he oversaw the signing of the business agreements, Najib said, “I want to make a confession to all of you that I am beginning to consider idli as my favourite breakfast item and you can see how much of India has crept into our Malaysian way of life.”
Najib has been courting Indian-origin population in his country as he heads into elections, so this is not surprising. The PM acknowledged Malaysia was home to the largest Indian population outside India. “Over 7% of our population are of Indian origin. Indian Malaysians play a key role in building Malaysia,” he added.
Most of the Indians in Malaysia are of Tamil origin, hence Najib’s meeting with Tamil superstar in Chennai last week held a special significance. “I met famous actor Rajinikanth and shared a selfie with him and I am beginning to like Tamil movies in addition to Bollywood,” he added.
Najib Razak and his wife are big fans of Shah Rukh Khan, who has even been knighted in Malaysia.
Najib’s business outreach comes after India and Malaysia took similar positions on the South China Sea issue. The move was surprising given Malaysia’s closeness to China. A joint statement committed the two sides to “respecting freedom of navigation and over flight, and unimpeded lawful commerce, based on the principles of international law, as reflected notably in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982. They urged all parties to resolve disputes through peaceful means without resorting to threat or use of force and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities, and avoid unilateral actions that raise tensions, and they emphasised that all parties should show utmost respect to the UNCLOS 1982, which establishes the international legal order of the seas and oceans.”
Najib is here with a 150-strong business delegation for whom Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan are focus areas. Andhra will allow Malaysia to build a 250-acre “fourth generation technology park” in the new capital Amravati (which is being built by Singapore and Japan). Najib also travelled to Jaipur where Malaysian companies are bidding for road projects worth $1.2 billion. Malaysia has invested about $7 billion into India, though most of it has come via Mauritius.