- India-Thailand relations are marked by cultural ties and mutual cooperation that have been shaped by centuries of deep-rooted historical and cultural connections.
- 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).
- A French scholar named George Coedes coined the term ‘Farther India’ to refer to those states that experienced “the civilising activity of India’. Geographically, it refers to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, and the Malay states.
- Upon India’s independence in 1947, full diplomatic relations were established in 1947. But the relations between the two were minimal at best as there was little incentive for India to look towards Thailand in terms of economy and trade. Additionally, Cold War politics put them in opposite camps of two superpower blocs of USSR and USA. Post the East Asian economic boom of the 1970s and the end of the Cold War in changed the situation. Ever since then the relations have between Thailand and India have been largely cordial.
- It was since 2001 that the Indo-Thai relations have seen remarkable growth with an increase in economic and commercial links, high-lever visits and signing of various agreements. India and Thailand are cooperating in various multilateral forums such as ASEAN and the sub-regional grouping BIMSTEC involving Bangladesh, India, Srilanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan
- India is a member of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) initiated by Thailand in 2002 and of the Mekong–Ganga Cooperation (MGC), a group of six countries.
- 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, which aspires to be a regional hub given its central location in South East Asia, initiated a ‘Look West’ policy in 1997. This seeks to accord priority to strengthening relations with South Asia and beyond.
- The ‘Look West’ policy of Thailand complements India’s ‘Look East’ policy, which is now elevated to ‘Act East’ policy and has provided the basis for a substantive elevation of bilateral relations. Thailand also launched its ‘Act West’ policy in 2016.
- India and Thailand, located in each other’s extended neighborhood, share a maritime boundary in the Andaman Sea.
- The India-AESAN Agreement on Trade in Goods was implemented in January 2010 and the ASEAN-India FTA in Services and Investments was signed in September 2014 and came into force in July 2015.
Areas of Cooperation
India’s religious links to Thailand
- 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 deitiesof 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.
Indian Diaspora in Thailand:
- There are an estimated 250,000 people of Indian origin in Thailand, many of them having lived in the country for several generations.
Economic & Commercial Partnership:
- The bilateral trade and investment between our countries is robust and growing.
- Our bilateral trade was US$ 12.12 billion in 2019 and it reached US$ 9.76 billion in 2020 despite the pandemic situation.
- 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.
- 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).
In line with India’s SAGAR Vision:
- As part of Indian Government’s vision of Security And Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), the Indian Navy has been involved in assisting countries in the Indian Ocean Region with Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Surveillance, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), and other capacity building and capability-enhancement activities, on their request.
Bilateral Institutional Mechanisms:
- Joint Commission Meeting
- Foreign Office Consultations
- Joint Task Force (JTF) on Maritime Cooperation
Multilateral Forum Cooperation
- 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.