Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, September 5, met his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad and raised the issue of extradition of controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who faces charges of money laundering and fueling terrorism in India.
The issue was raised in a bilateral meeting conducted on the sidelines of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia, the Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale told reporters.
"Prime Minister Modi raised the issue of Zakir Naik's extradition. 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.
The Malaysian Prime Minister also reportedly responded positively to Modi's request. Officials of the two countries will discuss how Naik can be brought back to India at the earliest, sources told IANS.
Malaysia has granted asylum to Naik since 2016 when he fled from India after he was charged by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) for promoting communal disharmony in the country. An investigation revealed that militants, who carried out the Dhaka Terror Attack in July 2016 and the leader of Hyderabad's Islamic State's module, confessed that they were influenced by Naik's sermons.
The Mumbai-born 53-year-old founder of the controversial 'Peace TV' has been living in Malaysia since 2017 after the previous Malaysian government granted permanent residency to him.
While the current Malaysian government has not decided on sending him back to India, he has been barred from delivering public speeches.
His activities are under constant monitoring of the Malaysian authorities after he made racially sensitive remarks in the multi-ethnic nation. The Malaysian Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said that no one is above the country's law, "much less a permanent resident" even if he is Zakir Naik.
Naik is also facing a government inquiry set up by the Malaysian PM who had initially denied India's extradition requests citing Naik's statement that he would not be accorded justice in India.
Gokhale said the issue of terrorism also discussed between Modi and Mohamad. He said the Malaysian Prime Minister unequivocally condemned terrorism in all forms and stated that his country was against the menace.
The two leaders discussed ways to "cope" with the growing menace of terrorism, the Foreign Secretary said.
Jammu and Kashmir discussed
Developments related to Jammu and Kashmir were also discussed and Modi explained the "rationale" behind the reorganisation of the state aimed at "effective governance and delivery of social justice."
He said more focus in the context of Jammu and Kashmir was on terrorism emanating from Pakistan.
The two Prime Ministers also discussed the issue of trade imbalance in favour of Malaysia and Mohamad promised to address it, including by increasing imports from India.
Describing the meeting between the two Prime Ministers as very cordial, the Foreign Secretary said Modi told Mohamad that he looked forward to working with him for enhancing the bilateral ties.
The 94-year-old Malaysian leader was elected for the second time as Prime Minister in May.
(With agency inputs.)