Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday thanked Mahathir Mohamad for again speaking in support of the people of Indian-occupied Kashmir, as the former Malaysian prime minister vowed to continue to raise the issue of New Delhi's "injustices" in the disputed region.
"I want to thank Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad for speaking in support of Kashmiris and against Indian repression in IIOJK (Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir) — this time at a function on 8 Aug to mark a year of the illegal Indian actions in IIOJK," Imran wrote on Twitter.
His statement followed a series of tweets by nonagenarian Mahathir, who defended his right to speak up against India's human rights violations in occupied Kashmir, saying doing so would be to "stand up for humanity".
"I had chosen to speak out despite being aware of the potential backlash," Mahathir, 95, wrote, referring to his remarks at last year's United Nations General Assembly where he criticised India's "invasion" of occupied Kashmir. His criticism led to backlash from India, Malaysia's largest importer of palm oil, in the form of order cancellations and import bans.
On Friday, Mahathir in an interview with WION news outlet admitted that relations between Malaysia and India had deteriorated because of his comments on Kashmir.
"To my mind, keeping quiet is not an option when all the tell-tale signs were pointing towards another situation whereby a big and powerful country imposed its will with impunity on a small and defenceless nation," he tweeted, referring to India's repression in occupied Kashmir.
Mahathir, who announced on Friday he was setting up a new political party as he seeks to take on the government, said the developments that transpired following his "contentious speech" at the UNGA "only served to prove that what I had said [was] mild and to a certain degree, restrained".
"I offer no apology for what I had said though I am sorry that it had affected our palm oil export to India. I don’t know if that is a high price to pay for speaking out against such injustices," he added.
He said now that he is no longer the prime minister "I take it that I can now speak without restrain and address the Kashmir issue without threats of boycotts and such".
Mahathir, the world’s oldest leader until his resignation in February, suggested he would speak about the issue at an event in Kuala Lumpur about “Kashmir's one year lockdown since August 5, 2019".
His remarks come three days after Pakistan observed Yaum-i-Istehsal (Day of Exploitation) on August 5 to mark one year since India revoked the semi-autonomous status of occupied Kashmir, split it into two federal territories and imposed strict movement restrictions and a communication blockade in the region.
Speaking at the UNGA in September, Mahathir had said that despite UN resolutions on Jammu and Kashmir, the territory had been invaded and occupied.
“There may be reasons for this action but it is still wrong. The problem must be solved by peaceful means. India should work with Pakistan to resolve this problem,” he had stressed.
He had also criticised a new citizenship law in India that excludes Muslim immigrants. In retaliation for his comments, India, the biggest buyer of Malaysian palm oil for five years, put curbs in January on purchases from Kuala Lumpur.
Mahathir had later defended his criticism of India, saying although Malaysia was concerned about India’s curbs on imports of palm oil after the diplomatic row, he would continue to speak out against “wrong things” even if it cost his country financially.