Malaysia has told India not to meddle in its internal affairs after New Delhi expressed concerns over the treatment of ethnic Indians in Muslim-majority Malaysia.
Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar told the Star daily that the government would deal with citizens according to its own laws and no other country should interfere with how Malaysia handles its domestic affairs.
"If they break any law, it is our right to deal with them in accordance with Malaysian laws," Syed Hamid was quoted as saying, after Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed New Delhi's concerns over the treatment of Indians in Malaysia.
"I hope there is no misunderstanding of what is happening here. If they are talking about Indian citizens, we would understand the concern, but what happened involves Malaysian citizens," he said.
Syed Hamid and foreign ministry officials could not be reached for comments.
Last Sunday, more than 10,000 Malaysian Indians staged the community's biggest anti-government protest, sparked by anger over policies they say prevent them from getting decent jobs or a good education for their children.
Police used tear gas and water canons to disperse the protesters, many of them Tamils with their roots in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, sparking outrage and demands from Tamil politicians that New Delhi intervene.
"If they break any law, it is our right to deal with them in accordance with Malaysian laws," Syed Hamid was quoted as saying.
India said on Friday it was concerned about the treatment of ethnic Indians in Malaysia and had taken up with Kuala Lumpur accusations that protesters from the community had been harassed.
"The government remains deeply solicitous for the welfare of people of Indian origin living abroad," Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee told parliament.
"We have friendly relations with Malaysia and we are in touch with the Malaysian authorities in the related matter," Mukherjee said.
Multi-racial Malaysia has denied claims it mistreated ethnic Indians, saying that they were better off than those in India.
Ethnic Indians form 7 percent of Malaysia's 26 million people.
New Delhi's expression of solidarity came as the Hindu rights group behind Sunday's protest said its leader had left for India before heading to London, Geneva, Brussels and Washington to lobby for international support.
The Hindu Rights Action Force said that its chairman, P. Waythamoorthy, left Malaysia on Wednesday "in the light of the crackdown and threats of detention without trial."
He is expected to meet Indian leaders including the foreign minister and chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
Separately, one private immigration agency in Malaysia said.
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