India-Thailand Relations | 22 Apr 2023

For Prelims: 8th India-Thailand Defence Dialogue, ASEAN, BIMSTEC, Exercise MAITREE, Exercise SIAM BHARAT, India-Thailand Coordinated Patrol.

For Mains: India-Thailand Relations.

Why in News?

The 8th India-Thailand Defence Dialogue was held in Bangkok, Thailand, during which both sides expressed satisfaction at the ongoing bilateral defense cooperation.

What are the Key Highlights of the Dialogue?

  • The progress on various bilateral defence cooperation initiatives was reviewed.
  • The co-chairs identified means to enhance existing areas of collaboration, especially in the field of defence industry, maritime security and multinational cooperation.
    • Thailand expressed confidence in the capability of the Indian defence industry.
  • The two chairs also articulated steps in the direction of emerging areas of cooperation and issues pertaining to global commons.

How have India’s Relations been with Thailand?

  • Diplomatic Relations:
    • Thailand and India have a longstanding diplomatic relationship that dates back to 1947.
    • The relationship is built on a foundation of economic and cultural ties that have existed for more than 2000 years.
    • India’s ‘Look East’ policy (since 1993) and Thailand’s ‘Look West’ policy (since 1996) which has now metamorphosed into India’s ‘Act East’ and Thailand’s ‘Act West” are strongly contributing to consolidating bilateral relations including economic & commercial linkages.
  • Economic And Commercial Relations:
    • Bilateral trade was USD 12.12 billion in 2019 and it reached USD 9.76 billion in 2020 despite the pandemic situation.
      • Thailand exports to India amounted to USD 7.60 billion, while Indian exports to Thailand were worth USD 4.86 billion in 2018.
    • Bilateral trade between India and Thailand reached an all-time high of around USD 15 billion in 2021-22.
    • In the ASEAN region, Thailand ranks as India’s 5th largest trading partner after Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.
      • Currently, Thai goods have benefited from tax reduction under ASEAN-India FTA in Goods, which came into effect in January 2010.
  • Defence Cooperation:
    • The bilateral defence engagements have expanded over time and include Defence Dialogue meetings, military-to-military exchanges, high-level visits, capacity-building and training programs, and the annual joint military exercises.
    • Defense Exercises:
  • Connectivity:
    • In 2019, approximately 1.9 million Indian tourists visited Thailand, while around 160,000 Thai tourists visited India mainly for Buddhist pilgrimage sites.
    • India and Thailand are working together to improve regional connectivity also under the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) framework.
    • The most awaited India–Myanmar–Thailand Trilateral Highway is expected to expand land connectivity through Northeast India and Southeast Asia, becoming the first-ever cross border facilitation agreement between South and Southeast Asia.
  • Cultural Cooperation:
    • India and Thailand have a strong cultural exchange program with regular visits of Indian cultural troupes, festivals, and events.
    • An Indian Cultural Centre, now known as the Swami Vivekananda Culture Centre, was established in Bangkok in 2009.
    • The 550th birth anniversary of Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji was also celebrated in Thailand with various events and a grand Nagar Kirtan procession in Bangkok.
    • The Thai language translation of the Constitution of India was launched in Thailand.

Way Forward

  • Both should address issues regarding trade barriers and reducing import duty charges through bilateral engagements to expand trade and investments.
  • Collaboration opportunities between India's start-up ecosystem and Thailand should also be explored.
  • The two countries can work together to bridge supply chain gaps by investing in each other's markets.
  • It is also essential to continue to strengthen strategic and security cooperation through defense engagements, military-to-military exchanges, and joint exercises.

Source: PIB