Malaysian-Russian Relations Ripe for Development
By Dato’ Mohamad Khalis
Photo by Alexey Zhukov
The year 2007 marks another important milestone for Malaysia-Russia relations as both countries celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations. Only 10 years into its independence, Malaysia, then a young nation, forged diplomatic ties with the USSR on 3 April 1967.
I am proud to say that since that historic day, relations between Malaysia and Russia have progressed tremendously. Since the first visit by a Malaysian Prime Minister to Moscow in 1972, all Malaysian Prime Ministers have visited this country at least once during their premiership. The most recent visit was by H. E. Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi from 18-21 June 2007 at the invitation of President Putin.
This gesture reflects the seriousness and commitment of Malaysia to build and maintain an equal as well as meaningful relationship with Russia. Malaysia, in turn, is heartened by the reciprocity shown by Russia through the official visit of President Vladimir Putin in August 2003, the first time a Russian leader visited Malaysia.
With the excellent political linkage established between the leaders, bilateral relations between both countries have also continued to flourish. Trade between both countries is steadily on the rise, with annual trade volume recording almost US $1 bn a year, the largest among all the other countries from the Southeast Asian region.
Also important is the level of people-to-people relationship, which I can proudly say is blossoming beautifully. For most Malaysians, Russia is considered a relatively new destination. However, Malaysians are always fast to catch up and today there at least 2,500 Malaysians living, studying and working in Russia. We anticipate that this number will almost double in the next three years. Russians have started to experience and enjoy Malaysian hospitality and we look forward to continue sharing the Malaysian warmth and friendship with our Russian friends.
One of the most interesting projects that both countries are working on now is the sending of the first Malaysian Angkasawan (cosmonaut) to the ISS. Both candidates, Dr. Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and Dr. Faiz Khaleed, are undergoing rigorous training at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center and should launch with the Soyuz TMA-11 team sometime in October 2007.
Malaysia and Russia have only touched the surface of the spheres of cooperation that both countries could endeavor together. I am excited that the momentum of the relations is on the upswing and hope that my team and I will continue to explore the many opportunities available and open new doors to enhance relations in the future.
H. E. Dato’ Mohamad Khalis is the Malaysian Ambassador to the Russian Federation