- India and its neighbourhood
- India’s bilateral relations with Thailand are rooted in history, age-old social and cultural interactions, and extensive people-to-people contacts.
- The classical Sanskrit and Pali texts from India carry references of the region using various names such as Kathakosha, Suvarnabhumi (the land of God) or Suvarnadvipa (the golden island).
- In the past two decades, with regular political exchanges, growing trade and investment, India’s ties with Thailand have now evolved into a comprehensive partnership.
- India’s ‘Act East’ policy has been complemented by Thailand’s ‘Act West’ policy in bringing the two countries closer.
- Thailand stood by India during the second Covid wave with the delivery of medical supplies, including oxygen cylinders and concentrators, from Their Majesties the King and the Queen of Thailand. Likewise, India also supported Thailand with the same in times of crisis.
- The most important influence of India on Southeast Asia was in the field of religion and how Shivaism, Vaishnavism, Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, and later Sinhalese Buddhism came to be practised in the region.
- The Mon kings of Dvaravati and the Khmers had patronised Buddhism and built several Buddhist edifices, but at the same time had also adopted Brahmanical customs and practises.
- Apart from the popular Brahmanical deities of Ganesh, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, those that are largely absent in Indian socio-religious landscape, such as Indra are also worshiped in Thailand.
- Although there is no archaeological evidence of the story of Rama in Thailand, but the Ayutthaya in Central Thailand, which emerged in the 10th century CE, is derived from Ayodhya, birthplace of Lord Rama.
- The nationalist historian RC Majumdar, for instance, noted that “the Hindu colonists brought with them the whole framework of their culture and civilisation and this was transplanted in its entirety among the people who had not emerged from their primitive barbarism”.
- Many local languages in the region, including Thai, Malay, and Javanese contain words of Sanskrit, Pali and Dravidian origin in significant proportions. The Thai language is written in script derived from Southern Indian Pallava alphabet.
- The Thai language translation of the Constitution of India was launched by the President of the National Assembly and Speaker of the House of Representatives of Thailand in March 2021 at an event organised by the Embassy under the banner of India@75.
- There are an estimated 250,000 people of Indian origin in Thailand, many of them having lived in the country for several generations.
- The bilateral trade and investment between both countries is robust and growing.
- India is Thailand’s largest trading partner in South Asia and the 11th worldwide.
- The trade volume in 2021 reached almost 15 billion USD, recorded as an all-time high.
- Currently, there are around 38 Thai companies investing in India in the fields of infrastructure, housing, agro-processing and automotive.
- The number of Thai tourists to India was close to 160,000 (mainly to Buddhist pilgrimage sites).
- India and Thailand are closely cooperating on improving regional connectivity through initiatives such as India- Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, Asian Highway Network (under UNESCAP), BTILS under BIMSTEC framework.
- India has been pushing for the early completion and expansion of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway (covering 1,400 km) to improve connectivity in the region. There have been talks of extending it to 3,200 km to connect Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam as well. [will boost trade and commerce in the ASEAN–India Free Trade Area, as well as with the rest of Southeast Asia]
- Thailand remains India’s favorite travel destination as it only took five years, from 2015 to 2019, for the number of Indian tourists heading to Thailand to be doubled, from 1.03 million to nearly two million.
- Since 2015, India is participating in Ex-Cobra Gold, the largest Asia Pacific Military exercise as ‘Observer Plus’s category.
- Bilateral exercises are held annually between the armed forces of both countries.
- Exercise MAITREE (Army).
- Exercise SIAM BHARAT (Air Force).
- Both countries are important regional partners linking South and Southeast Asia.
- They cooperate closely in the ASEAN, East Asia Summit (EAS), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi- Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) groupings, Mekong Gang Cooperation (MGC), and Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD),
The Indo-Thai relation today is not just looked upon from the angle of socio-cultural ties, since the relation in today’s context has become very comprehensive in its scope. This bilateral engagement has the potential to foster growth not only restricted to the two nations but for the entire region.
This is very much evident given the fact that cooperation in the areas of security, economic, and connectivity being interconnected, would also have the same level of impact on the neighbouring States and the region.
Mains Practice Question –Discuss India and Thailand relations.
Note: Write answers to this question in the comment section.