January 15, 2020 / 1:20 PM / 9 days ago

Exclusive: India plans cuts to imports from Malaysia, Turkey in Kashmir row

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India is planning to cut some imports from Turkey and widen curbs on palm oil from Malaysia to oil, gas and other products, government officials said, targeting the two Muslim-majority countries for their criticism of India’s policy toward Kashmir.

India, the world’s biggest buyer of edible oils, has already effectively stopped importing palm oil from Malaysia by asking Indian importers to look elsewhere.

New Delhi is now planning to restrict buying of petroleum, aluminum ingots, liquefied natural gas, computer parts and microprocessors from Malaysia, the two government officials, who did not wish to be identified, told Reuters.

The government is also planning to cut imports of oil and steel products from Turkey, one of the officials said.

“Our government has not taken kindly the comments of Malaysia and Turkey and we will restrict trade from both the countries,” one of the officials said.

The Indian Commerce Ministry did not reply to an email seeking comment.

Muslim-majority Kashmir is claimed in whole by India and Pakistan and ruled in part by both.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said recently Hindu-majority India was “invading and occupying the country” of Jammu and Kashmir and Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan had said Kashmiris are “virtually under blockade”.

The Indian government withdrew the autonomy of Kashmir last year to tighten its grip on the region, shutting down internet access and detaining activists and politicians. India’s Supreme Court last week ruled an indefinite shutdown of the internet in Kashmir was illegal.

Tension between India and Malaysia, the world’s second-biggest producer and exporter of palm oil after Indonesia, further escalated after 94-year-old Mahathir criticized India’s new citizenship law that critics say discriminates against Muslims.

Turkey meanwhile has sided with Pakistan on issues such as its membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, which oversees the export of goods that can be used for nuclear weapons manufacturing.

Turkey is also against the blacklisting of Pakistan by the world financial watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force, to curb its alleged financing of terror, something India has been lobbying for hard.

Indian trade data indicates that overall imports from both Malaysia and Turkey had already taken a hit last year.

Reporting by Aftab Ahmed and Neha Dasgupta; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Nick Macfie

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