Nikesh Mehta

Counsellor for Foreign Policy and Security

Part of UK in Malaysia

12th April 2012 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Malaysia, Truly Asia

In my first blog three months ago, I wrote about how thrilling this year would be for our bilateral relationship, culminating in a visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge to celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. At that stage, I had no idea that we would soon have an equally exciting visit by the British Prime Minister David Cameron. This would be the first visit by a British Prime Minister to Malaysia for 18 years but comes only nine months after Prime Minister Najib’s Guest of Government visit to the UK.

As diplomats around the world will tell you, a visit by their head of government is an exhilarating experience but the weeks running up to it can be nerve racking as you try to strike the right balance with your hosts between protocol and priorities. Everything needs to be nailed down in advance: from the smallest details of what should happen at the official welcoming ceremony in case of a torrential downpour to an agreement on the subjects to be discussed over the course of the visit.

I think we’ve got the balance right between focussing on the bilateral relationship and showcasing some of Malaysia’s highlights. During the course of the Prime Minister’s visit, he will hold talks with Prime Minister Najib in Putrajaya, the country’s picturesque administrative capital named after the first Malaysian Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra.

The two Prime Ministers will then discuss the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) with students at the University of Nottingham’s Malaysia Campus. The University of Nottingham was Prime Minister Najib’s alma mater and GMM is his admirable initiative to strike a terminal blow against all forms of extremism around the world. As you might expect in a region of great economic importance, the Prime Minister will also meet some of South East Asia’s biggest investors.

On the key political issues, I think the two leaders will probably want to discuss the continuing violence in Syria and the pace of progress in Burma following Prime Minister Najib’s recent visit.

So why is the Prime Minister visiting Malaysia at this time? To answer this question, I think it helps to understand the breadth and depth of our bilateral relationship. From trade to education, and from countering extremism to defence, Malaysia is one of our most important global partners.

Did you know, for example, that there are more UK qualifications (48,000) awarded in Malaysia than in any other country? Or that bilateral trade currently stands at around £4bn (the second largest in the region) and is projected to double within three years? Would it surprise you to know that Malaysian companies own Laura Ashley, Wessex Water, Cardiff City Football Club, Queens Park Rangers and Caterham Cars?

The bilateral relationship was once described as being in a state of ‘benign neglect’. I am sure that the rekindled people to people links over the last year will banish this for good and the relationship with this key emerging power will go from strength to strength.

And for my part, I can’t wait for the visit to take place so that my friends and family can see why I’m so delighted to call this place home.

1 comment on “Malaysia, Truly Asia

  1. As for My self I really love the Uk ..
    and I spent a couple years in london
    so if there is any assistance you would like from me
    That would help the Brits..I would Be more happy to help
    as I see the royal families as also a part of my family
    God Bless you Mr.Prime Minister
    I hope you would enjoy your staaaaay

Comments are closed.

About Nikesh Mehta

Nikesh (Nik) Mehta commenced his posting as Counsellor (Foreign Policy and Security) at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur in January 2012. This new role was created to strengthen…

Nikesh (Nik) Mehta commenced his posting as Counsellor (Foreign
Policy and Security) at the British High Commission in Kuala Lumpur in
January 2012. This new role was created to strengthen the British
Government’s relationship with Malaysia on issues such as Counter
Terrorism, Counter Proliferation and Transnational Crime.
Nik joined the Foreign Office in 2002 after nearly three years
working as a teacher in rural Japan. His first experience of culture
shock was trying to explain why he was vegetarian to a group of
sceptical Japanese students. Nik spent a year on the NATO desk in London
before serving in the Coalition Provisional Authority as the Political
Officer for southern Iraq based in Basrah.
In 2004, Nik was appointed as Second Secretary (Political) in Kampala
primarily responsible for reporting on conflict with the Lord’s
Resistance Army, the ensuing humanitarian crisis and the subsequent
peace talks in Juba. The posting was particularly poignant for Nik’s
family as his mother, a Ugandan-Asian, was expelled from the country by
Idi Amin’s forces in 1972.
For the last four years, Nik has served in the Foreign Office’s
Counter Terrorism Department, most recently as Head of the Guantanamo
and Rendition Issues Team.
Nik is in Kuala Lumpur with his Australian wife, Anna, and their
three year old son, Arran. You can follow him on Twitter @nikmehta33.

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