Modi in Malaysia: As PM, 92-year-old Mahathir Mohamad had met Narasimha Rao & Vajpayee as well
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was set to visit Malaysia on Thursday, May 31, en route to Singapore from Indonesia, during his five-day trip to Southeast Asia. This will be Modi's second visit to Malaysia after 2015 and his first meeting with Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's 92-year-old statesman who recently returned to power after a historic election earlier this month.
Modi will congratulate Mohamad on his election victory and speak on some other issues during his stopover in the country with which India shares a historic and robust relationship.
Mohamad is perhaps one of those rare statesmen in the world who has met three of India's frontline prime ministers as his country's head of the government.
Rao met Mohamad in Malaysia in 1995
In August 1995, the then prime minister PV Narasimha Rao had visited Malaysia and Mohamad, who had earlier served as the PM of Malaysia between 1981-2003, gave a dinner in the former's honour.
There, Mohamad had praised Rao's leadership in taking "brave economic policies and reforms" and enabling India to see "dramatic increase in foreign investment" which he hoped would open new opportunities for Malaysian companies as well.
Mohamad was thus one of the first international leaders to have embraced India's economic liberalisation. Mohamad had also taken the opportunity to rue the failure of the United Nations to secure peace in various parts of the globe even on the eve of its 50th anniversary, which came in October 1995.
Vajpayee met Mohamad in Malaysia in 2001
Six years since Rao's visit, his successor Atal Behari Vajpayee had also visited Malaysia and met Mohamad.
Mohamad then had thanked India for its commitment to become a legal party to a nuclear-free zone in Southeast Asia. It was an era when India had already started a progress on its 'Look East' policy and New Delhi's decision to abide by the Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) agreement had impressed the Malaysian premier who viewed it as a new dimension in intra-regional cooperation.
Mohamad's stress on a denuclearised world during his meeting with Vajpayee clearly showed how his perception of India had seen a transformation in half a decade - from a country which just unshackled itself from economic self-restriction to one which is possessive of nuclear power and harbouring ambition to become a bigger power.
Mohamad had presented in his words a fine blending of India's fast economic progress with a need to see itself as a responsible power when it came to resolving regional conflicts.
He had hoped that Vajpayee's visit would not just strengthen India's bilateral relation with Malaysia but with the Asean bloc as a whole. Vajpayee, too, had reciprocated in a similar tone, highlighting India's growing relation with the Asean and its member countries, something India had needed at that time especially after its relations with the West witnessed a lean phase because of the Pokhran II nuclear tests a few years back.
Now, Modi meets PM Mohamad in Malaysia in 2018
The nonagenarian will now meet Vajpayee's successor Modi, another of India's prominent prime ministers since independence.
Mohamad is perhaps the only international leader apart from Pakistan's Nawaz Sharif who was/is in power both when both of India's BJP prime minister - Vajpayee and Modi - are in office.