Malaysia’s former PM Dr Mahathir is not a man to easily forgive and forget.
Once he had loved Anwar Ibrahim like a son, and after parachuting the former ABIM leader into UMNO’s upper echelon to the dismay of many UMNO senior brass, anointed Anwar as his heir apparent, but today Mahathir despises him to the nth degree. Yes, Mahathir never forgives a hurt, and Anwar had hurt him big.
Likewise with Australia. Even before former Aussie PM Paul Keating’s 'recalcitrant' insult of Mahathir, the Malaysian senior statesman didn’t like Australia – why, I am not sure? But Keating added to his dislike for Oz.
So it hasn’t been surprising that Mahathir stated Russia has more right to be in the East Asia Summit than Australia and New Zealand. He told President Putin that when the Russian leader paid him a visit, and I dare say it wasn't just to please Putin - Mahathir had meant it.
Mahathir would like to see Russia and North Korea included in the East Asia Summit as he deemed both countries as Eastern nations. He then goes into geographic pedantry by reminding everyone that Australia is in the south, and not the east.
As far as he is concerned, if Australia is included, it will only be an American proxy, which threatens the very objective of Mahathir's vision for an Eastern trading bloc to counter American influence and control. So Howard's Australia as a 'deputy sheriff' represents an unacceptable inclusion in the bloc.
And the United States of America? Now, geographically, would it be east or west of East Asia?
I am reminded of Frankie Laine's song 'Rose, Rose I Love You' about his Malayan love. There is a line in the song which says what Mahathir believes, that "East is East and West is West, our worlds are far apart".
For the complete lyrics read here.