Malaysia’s relationship with the Middle East has long been amicable and fruitful. Indeed, the relations have deeper historical roots than are commonly recognised. During the contemporary period, the sosio-cultural, economic, and other aspects of the bilateral relationship have expanded.
Towards the end of the 1980s, especially in the economic sphere, this relationship gradually changed. To lessen Malaysia’s heavy imports of oil from the Kingdom and narrow the resulting trade deficit, Malaysia took a number of initiatives, including granting access to Malaysian ports in 1985 to the National Shipping Company of Saudi Arabia (NSCSA), and setting up the Joint Committee consisting of the National Trade and Commerce Council of Malaysia and the Middle East Trade, Industry and Agriculture Council.
In other words, Tun Dr. Mahathir attempted to change the pattern of relations with by reducing dependence on financial assistance from the Kingdom and by seeking a wider, more diverse range of bilateral economic activity. These efforts paved the way for national leaders to further consolidate the economic and religious dimensions of Malaysia's relations with the Middle East.
Since independence, Malaysia has had a very positive and productive relationship, rooted in a centuries-long history of commercial and religious interaction. In the contemporary period, proactive Malaysian diplomacy has paved the way for a more balanced and multidimensional partnership between them, particularly in the economic sphere. Malaysia and the Middle East are very similar in terms of how Islam is interpreted and practiced, making it conducive and convenient for any form of migration, be it temporary or permanent.