Who should be Malaysia’s Ally?!

Saudi Arabia has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, while Malaysia has an embassy in Riyadh and a consulate general in Jeddah. Relations, both diplomatic and economic, are quite close between the two Muslim-majority Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) members.

The relations between both countries since the establishment of diplomatic relations in the early 1960 is based on mutual respect and work to develop relations in all fields. Saudi Arabia opened its embassy in Kuala Lumpur on 1961 along with the opening of Malaysian embassy in Riyadh. Since then, the relations are good. Saudi Arabian King Faisal made his first royal visit to Malaysia in the summer of 1970. This was followed by the visit of King Abdullah at the end of January 2006 aimed to discover the new area for co-operation. In early 2017, King Salman visited Malaysia to increase the economic ties between both countries. Following his visit, the King also received his honorary Doctor of Letters from University Malaya and a honorary doctorate of Philosophy in Political Science from the International Islamic University of Malaysia.

Saudi Arabia is the second largest Middle East trading partner for Malaysia with 60% of Malaysia’s total exports to Saudi Arabia comprising palm oil and other palm-based agricultural products, machinery, equipment and parts, processed food and electrical and electronic products. Until 2016, more than 100,000 Saudis have visited Malaysia with bilateral trade reach more than RM13.2 billion. In 2017, Saudi Aramco has signed a $7 billion deal for a 50% stake in a mega Malaysian oil refinery project in Johor with Petronas. Another seven memorandum of understanding (MOUs) in construction, halal co-operation, aerospace and hajj services was signed in the same year with an estimated total value of about RM9.74 billion.

Iran has an embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and Malaysia has an embassy in Tehran. Both countries are members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and have used these forums and bilateral relations to develop political ties.

Relations between the two countries have began since the independence of Malaysia. While Persian influences in Malay Peninsula are much longer with the traces were discovered some centuries ago as they were once engaged in trade in Lembah Bujang and Malacca together with the traces of Persian literature in Malay language.

Despite these matters of historical traces, political relations between two countries are recently tense due to alleged Iranian interferences promoting Shia Islam in largely Sunni adherence of Malaysia which in response the latter government has passed several anti-Shiite laws to limit the activities of Shia followers in the country to prevent their spread.

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