NEW DELHI: The government has sought a deal with Indonesia to push Indian sugar, rice and bovine meat in return for higher quantity of palm oil imports from the Southeast Asian country.
The move comes after the government decided to license the import of refined palm oil, which was meant to signal its displeasure to Malaysia over Mahathir Mohamad’s comments on Kashmir, the Citizenship Amendment Act and his government’s reluctance to extradite controversial preacher Zakir Naik.
Sources told TOI that senior officials have had a conversation with their Indonesian counterparts where they have suggested that some of the import restrictions that are currently in place should be lifted as Indian traders are expected to increase the amount of palm oil that is imported.
During 2018-19, Indonesia was India’s 10th largest trading partner with exports of $5.2 billion, while imports were estimated at $15.8 billion. Of the overall imports, edible oil and petroleum together added up to $10.6 billion.
India is the world’s largest importer of edible oil and the import restrictions have resulted in a sharp decline in futures market prices for the commodity in Malaysia.
The discussions came even as commerce and industry minister Piyush Goyal said the government had not imposed any restrictions on imports from Malaysia and Turkey. “If some of the restrictions impact Malaysia, I don’t think that will be the only country impacted,” he said.
The restriction on palm oil, which will see imposition of licences for import, has been put in place for all countries. Ditto for quality control order for telecom equipment or the proposed checks on import of microprocessors.
Agency reports said on its part, Malaysia is seeking to sort out the conflict through a dialogue, although there have been calls for boycotting Indian goods and restricting the entry of Indian workers and expatriates. “If India, or for that matter other countries, want to boycott our products as a form of retaliation, we should also reconsider our stance towards them,” A Kadir Jasin, Mahathir’s media adviser, said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.