Welcoming a 20% growth in bilateral trade in 2018, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Thai counterpart Prayut Chan-o-Cha on Nov 3 decided to task their trade officials to discuss paths to enhance ‘trade’ and ‘investment’ between both countries, and agreed to explore opportunities for cooperation in defence industries sector. As per the statement issued by the External Affairs Ministry, “Noting the enhanced engagement in defence and security fields, both sides agreed to explore opportunities for cooperation in defence industries sector”. The two leaders also discussed ways to enhance connectivity between the two countries.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) November 3, 2019
The two leaders, who met on the sidelines of 35th ASEAN Summit 2019, reviewed the progress made in bilateral relationship and noted that frequent high level meetings and exchanges at all levels have created positive momentum in the relationship. Both of them welcomed the growing ‘air connectivity’ between the two countries and start of a direct flight between Bangkok and Guwahati and also finalisation of agreements for cooperation between Ranong Port, Thailand and Indian ports in Kolkata, Chennai and Vishakapatnam.
Moreover, They also exchanged views on regional and multi-lateral issues of mutual interest, said the statement, adding that Modi thanked his Thai counterpart for the invitation extended to him to attend the ASEAN related meetings, and also congratulated him on his leadership as Chair of ASEAN. PM Modi “positively” assessed the contribution of Thailand as the Country Coordinator for India-ASEAN Strategic Partnership for further strengthening this relationship.
Significantly, Both countries are close maritime neighbours having historical and cultural linkages. In the contemporary context, India’s “Act East” policy is complimented by Thailand’s “Look West” policy which has made the relationship deep, robust and multifaceted. In other words, India’s Act East policy is an significant part of our Indo-Pacific vision and ASEAN lies at the core of it. Thus, Integrated and economically vibrant ASEAN is in interest of India, PM Modi remarked in presence of leaders of ASEAN countries.
Although, On Nov 2, “India and Uzbekistan” have also inked three pacts on cooperation in security ties after a meeting between the defence ministers of the two countries. Meanwhile, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who is attending Council of Heads and Governments (CHGs) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as the special envoy of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Tashkent, helded talks with his Uzbekistan counterpart Major General Bakhodir Nizamovich Kurbanov.
Following this meeting, “the two countries concluded a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in the field of Military Medicine between the armed forces of the two countries. In the coming days, it will continue discussions at the expert level to further enhance their exchanges in this sphere,”. Two Institution-to-Institution MoUs on training and capacity building between institutes of higher military learning of the two countries were also signed, the defence ministry said in a statement. Thus, The defence ministers agreed that the both sides would continue to work together to further raise their level of engagement in the defence sphere in keeping with strategic partnership between both.
Despite all of this, In his (Modi’s) opening address at the 16th India – ASEAN Summit in Bangkok, the PM remarked that enhancing surface, air and maritime connectivity between India and 10 nations of the bloc will significantly boost regional trade and economic growth. The PM assumed there was opportunity for boosting cooperation in the maritime security sphere and blue economy as well as in areas of agriculture, engineering, digital technology and scientific research. He highlighted that last year’s Commemorative Summit and Singapore Informal Summit’s Decisions implementation has brought India and ASEAN closer.
Prime Minister expressed happiness in being part of the 16th India – ASEAN Summit. He thanked Thailand for the warm hospitality and extended best wishes to Vietnam for taking over as Chairman of next year’s Summit.
Consequently, India is willing to increase cooperation and partnership in areas mutually beneficial to India and ASEAN and expressed readiness to improve partnership and capacity building in the areas of agriculture, research, engineering, science and ICT. The PM added that India wants to strengthen cooperation in the areas of maritime security and blue economy. He also welcomed the recent decision to review India ASEAN FTA adding it will improve economic partnership between India-Thailand.
However, ASEAN comprises Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia. The grouping is the seventh largest economy in the world and is expected to become the fourth largest by 2030. The ASEAN-India FTA signed in 2009 has trebled trade between the two sides, taking it to $81 billion in 2018. ASEAN members are India’s fourth largest trading partner.