Malik infamously quit the chart-topping boyband in 2015 and later admitted that he had never wanted to be in the group, which was originally formed on TV singing contest The X Factor in 2010.
Since then, relations between him, Tomlinson and the other members, including Harry Styles, Liam Payne and Niall Horan appear to have been fraught.
Appearing on The Zach Sang Show, Tomlinson, 30, initially gave a diplomatic response when asked if he and Malik are still friends.
The Just Hold On singer said: “You’d have to ask him. I could be wrong, but I believe I said, when you asked me a similar question [last time]… I believe I said I don’t think I’m mature enough to get over what’s frustrated me in that relationship.
“I don’t know if I’m mature enough now, but I’m definitely closer to being over all that.
“There’s been numerous times over the last couple of years where I’ve thought about him and hoped he’s alright,” he continued, admitting he has “tried to get in touch” with Malik.
Adding: “But it’s hard. I definitely wish him well.”
Malik has recently been posting covers of 1D songs on social media, which the host noted Tomlinson had been clicking “like” on.
“You’ve done your research,” he laughed before going on to praise Malik’s artistry.
He explained: “I wasn’t just liking it for the sake of liking it. It was a nice feeling ’cause in the past he’s said what he’s said about the band, and I understand some of what he was saying.
“For me, in those videos, it showed he was reflecting. It showed he was thinking about those times. Of course, at the same time, showing off his incredible voice.”
The dad-of-one said he’s happy that Malik appears to be “thinking about good times in the band,” and he hopes they will be able to rekindle their friendship in the future.
He added: “I think in time. I think we just have to bump into each other ’cause neither of us have each other’s number. I suppose maybe social media might be the way.”