Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has vowed to strengthen trade ties with India and pay "great attention" to helping the Indian diaspora in the multi-ethnic nation.
"I believe in developing this country on an inclusive basis. I will pay great attention to helping the Indian community," Najib said at the launch of the 1st World Kongu Tamilar Conference on Saturday evening.
Ethnic Indians form eight per cent of Malaysia's 28 million people.
He said the government's continuous efforts had helped preserve and safeguard the Tamil community's language and culture in Malaysia. Students in Malaysia have the opportunity to learn Tamil right from pre-school level to tertiary level.
Najib said the government had approved the establishment of six new Tamil primary schools, in addition to the 524 such existing schools in the country.
"Tamil language and Tamil literature are also taught at secondary schools. Our national Tamil radio, Minnal FM has 24-hour broadcast in Tamil and there are at least six Tamil dailies," he noted.
The event was organised by the Malaysia Kongu Tamilar Association, which represents 80,000 of the 200,000 Kongu Tamilar in the country.
Some 10,000 participants, as well as 2,000 delegates from 12 countries, attended the inauguration gathering.
The Kongu Tamilar community originated from the Kongu Nadu region in India, comprising the western part of Tamil Nadu and included parts of Karnataka and Kerala.
Addressing the foreign delegates, Najib reaffirmed his commitment to further strengthening bilateral trade between
Malaysia and India.
"I believe there are many, many more opportunities for our two countries to work together, and I encourage all our visitors to think of Malaysia as a gateway to ASEAN," he said.
Najib, who is also the Finance Minister, pointed out that India has been Malaysia's largest export destination in the South Asian region since 1998.
From 2003 to 2015, trade increased by more than four-fold. Last year, India was Malaysia s tenth largest trading partner. Najib said thousands of jobs were created in local manufacturing projects with Indian participation. Malaysia's direct investments in India were valued at 77 billion US dollars in 2014.
"We signed the Malaysia-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement in 2011, and declared an Enhanced Strategic Partnership last November, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit," Najib noted.