In a bid to ramp up its bond, India on Thursday offered Thailand an opportunity to cooperate and collaborate in the defence production sector and also to help meet Thai armed forces’ needs through Indian military industry.
This offer was made by Defence Minister A K Antony during an official meeting with his Thai counterpart Air Chief Marshal Sukhumpol Suwanatat during a visit to Bangkok, in the last leg of his three-nation tour that included Singapore and Australia. But the specifics of that collaboration were not immediately available.
Antony, who is visiting Bangkok close on the heels of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit here last week, also stressed that India and Thailand had huge stakes in peace and stability in their immediate neighbourhood and the wider Asia-Pacific region.
He also reiterated that the security of the sea lanes and freedom of navigation in the region was critical to economic growth and overall security of the region.
These two statements, made during the official talks with Suwanatat, were made obviously in the context of China’s growing assertiveness in the territorial disputes it has with South China Sea littorals, though an official release from the Indian defence ministry did not specify China.
Thailand is currently the leading nation for handling the South East Asian regional grouping ASEAN’s ties with China. ASEAN members Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and Brunei have territorial disputes with China in South China Sea.
“We support the resolution of differences and disputes through the process of dialogue and consensus between the parties to such disputes. All countries must exercise restraint and resolve issues diplomatically, according to the principles of international law,” Antony said. During the talks, Antony said, “India has, over the years, developed a well-established defence industry, which can meet the varied requirements of the Thai armed forces.”
According to an Indian Defence Ministry statement after the bilateral meeting between the two sides, Antony also noted that India would welcome the visit of Thai teams to various Indian defence production facilities.