Bangkok: India wants to work closely with Thailand for securing the international sea lanes of communication and commerce, Vice-President Hamid Ansari said on Wednesday on his arrival here from Brunei on a three-day trip. The two countries also hope to explore the possibility of a joint venture to promote transport by sea.
Ansari, who was received by Thai Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha and given a guard of honour at Government House, later said at a banquet that India is committed to strengthening the bilateral engagement with Thailand in the areas of security and defence. He said this would help the region as a whole and promote greater regional economic integration and connectivity.
“We are both engaged in transforming our ancient lands in to modern knowledge economies. India is a bright spot with the highest economic growth amongst the larger emerging countries. There is growing interest from across the world in building partnerships of trade, investment and innovation with India. I would urge the government and business community in Thailand to avail of the opportunities provided by a growing India,” he said.
The Vice-President also noted that the cultures of the two countries, “with a civilizational heritage of peace, pluralism and co-existence” can offer lessons and lasting solutions to the challenges of this century, in particular the globalization of terrorism and the impact of climate change.
The more than a million Indian tourists who visit the ‘Land of Smiles’ every year, get to see the “indelible imprint of the shared heritage of the two countries, epitomized by the timeless message of Lord Buddha and the shared lore of the Ramayana”, he said.
Later, while briefing the media on the deliberations during the day, Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs Anil Wadhwa said Thailand wants to engage in joint military production with India as it is a major importer of arms and believes that through this route it can reduce its imports.
Apart from joint research and development, the two countries would also be continuing with joint naval exercises near the Andamans and their armies would undertake exercise too. The nitty-gritty would be worked out during the visit of the Defence Minister of Thailand to India later this year. The coordination work would also be looked into by the Working Group on Maritime Security.
India also wants Thailand to take part in the development of sectors pertaining to infrastructure, electronics, automotive, hospitality, health care and consumer goods by availing of the opportunities thrown open by Make in India, Digital India, Skill India and other initiatives.
India is also keenly watching the development on the Trilateral Corridor passing through India, Myanmar and Thailand that is expected to be operationalised by 2017-18. “We have to look at the development of the corridor in North East India. Right now a number of bridges on the corridor are being strengthened,” Wadhwa said. Economic hubs would be planned along the corridor and the railway head at the India-Myanmar border would be developed.
India and Thailand have also agreed to cooperate rather than compete in ensuring food security as they are both agricultural economies. With the bilateral trade remaining in the $9 billion range for a long time, they would be also looking at diversification and of preparing a legal framework for it before concluding the Free Trade Agreement, the Secretary said.
On the issue of checking terrorism and crime, Mr Wadhwa said while Thailand had extradited a gunrunner to India last year, more such requests are under consideration. “We would be working and exchanging information on how to apprehend terrorists who have escaped from one country to another.”