India has informally asked palm oil refiners and traders to avoid buying Malaysian palm oil, government and industry sources said on Tuesday, following Malaysian criticism of India’s actions in the Kashmir region and its amended citizenship act.
India is the world’s biggest buyer of the oil and palm oil inventories could spike in Malaysia, putting prices under pressure if Indian refiners reduce purchases from the country. Malaysian prices are the global benchmark for palm oil prices.
A senior official in India’s vegetable oil industry, who did not wish to be named, said the government had asked refiners at a meeting attended by two dozen vegetable oil industry officials in New Delhi on Monday to boycott Malaysia.
“In Monday’s meeting we have been verbally told to avoid buying Malaysian palm oil,” the official said.
“We’ve had various rounds of meetings within the government and industry to see how we could reduce imports from Malaysia,” one Indian government official said, adding India has yet to firm up a plan of action and is exploring various options.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has angered India over his comments on its actions in Kashmir and over the amended citizenship act, which critics say chips away at the country’s secular foundations and could be used to discriminate against Muslims.
In October, Indian traders stopped signing new contracts with Malaysia for a brief period fearing India will raise import tax on Malaysian palm oil after Mahathir told the UN General Assembly that India had “invaded and occupied” Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region also claimed by Pakistan.
Last month, Mahathir, the Prime Minister of a predominantly Muslim nation, also waded into the debate about the amended citizenship act, which has led to violent protests in India and at least 25 deaths in clashes with police.
“People are dying because of this law. So why is there a necessity to do this thing when all this while, for 70 years almost, they have lived together as citizens without any problem?” Mahathir said last month.
The Indian government has made it clear it wants to punish Malaysia for these remarks and traders should support it, said another industry official.