KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday said that his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi did not request the extradition of radical preacher Zakir Naik, but India rebutted, saying the issue did come up when the two leaders met in Russia this month.
Naik, a 53-year-old televangelist, left India in 2016 and subsequently moved to Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency by the government of former Prime Minister Najib Razak.
Mahathir said that Modi, whom he met in Russia during an economic forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok earlier this month, made no extradition request for the controversial Islamic televangelist despite official notice from New Delhi.
At a media briefing on Tuesday in New Delhi, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said Naik's extradition issue had indeed come up during prime minister Modi's meeting with Malaysian counterpart in Vladivostok.
"the Indian expectation was communicated and it was decided that officials concerned should meet," he said.
"Let me make it very clear for the record. There is an extradition request sent in January 2018. We want Zakir Naik back and that is what we are working on," Jaishankar asserted.
He said India has been relentlessly pursuing Naik's extradition at all levels.
Briefing reporters on Prime Minister's bilateral meeting with Mahathir on September 5, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had said that Modi raised the issue of Naik's extradition with the Malaysian premier.
"Not many countries want him. I met with Modi. He didn't ask me for this man," Mahathir told Malaysian radio station BFM 89.9 when asked about Naik's extradition.
He also said that Malaysia was looking for a place to send Zakir who has made racially sensitive comments against Hindu and Chinese Malaysians recently.
The prime minister then reaffirmed that Zakir will no longer be allowed to publicly speak in Malaysia following his racially divisive remarks.
"Well, he's not a national of this country. He has been given, I think by the previous government, permanent residence status. A permanent resident isn't supposed to make any comments on this country's systems and politics. He has breached that. He is now not allowed to speak. "We are trying to find someplace he can go to but at the moment, no one wants to accept him (Naik)," he said.
Naik is wanted by Indian authorities since 2016 for alleged money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches.
He has been banned from any public activities in the multi-ethnic country after his remarks against Malaysian Hindus and Chinese on August 8.