Vladivostok: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday raised the issue of Zakir Naik's extradition with his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad as India stepped up efforts to seek the controversial radical preacher's return to face terrorism and money laundering charges.
Modi, who met Mahathir on the sidelines of the fifth meeting of the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) held here, also explained to his Malaysian counterpart the rationale behind India's decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir's special status.
"Had a great meeting with Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia. We talked about bilateral ties between our nations and ways to further diversify cooperation," Modi tweeted.
Briefing reporters on the meeting, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said Modi raised the issue of Naik's extradition from Malaysia during his meeting with Mahathir.
"Both the parties have decided that our officials will stay in contact regarding the matter and it is an important issue for us," Gokhale said.
Naik, a 53-year-old radical television preacher, left India in 2016 and subsequently moved to the largely Muslim Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency. He is wanted by Indian authorities since 2016 for alleged money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches.
He has been banned from from any public activities in the multi-ethnic country after his remarks against Malaysian Hindus and Chinese on August 8.
Gokhale said Modi discussed with Mahathir the "reorganisation" and the developments related to Jammu and Kashmir. The growing threat of terrorism also figured in their talks, he said.
"Prime Minister Modi explained to Mahathir the rationale behind the reorganisation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, in terms of both giving effective governance and delivering socio-economic justice. And in that context the two leaders discussed the focus was on terrorism, on how to combat the growing threat of terrorism," Gokhale said.
Prime Minister Mahathir acknowledged that terrorism was a global problem and Malaysia is against any form terrorism," he added.
India revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status on August 5 and has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was an internal matter and also advised Pakistan to accept the reality. Pakistan is trying to internationalise the Kashmir issue after India's decision on August 5.
After India's decision on Kashmir, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan telephoned Mahathir and had sought his support on the issue.
This is the second meeting between the two leaders, the first was in May last year when Modi called on Mahathir in Putrajaya after the 94-year-old leader won the general election.
Gokhale said that the meeting between the two prime ministers was "very warm".
"Modi also described Mahathir's election as a historic one and said India was looking forward to working with Malaysia," he added.
There was also discussion on trade and ways to diversify the bilateral ties to benefit people in both the countries.
"Prime Minister Mahathir acknowledged that there was a growing trade between the two countries, but that Malaysia had a surplus in trade. He assured Prime Minister Modi that while we should grow this trade, Malaysia is looking at ways by which we can balance this trade," Gokhale said.
Mahathir said Malaysia would consider importing more from India so that India's exports to Malaysia grow, he said.
"Meetings continue in Vladivostok. Prime Ministers @chedetofficial and Narendra Modi discuss ways to diversify India-Malaysia cooperation for the benefit of people in both countries. Strengthening ties with an important ASEAN partner," the Prime Minister's Office said in a tweet.
Modi arrived in Russia on Wednesday to participate in the 20th India-Russia annual summit and the EEF.