India Backs out from Joint Army Drills with Thailand
NEW DELHI: In a major snub to the Thai military that toppled a democratically elected government in a coup earlier this week, India on Friday withdrew its 45-man Army contingent participating in a bilateral joint exercise at Thailand’s Chiang Mai Hills.
“Our troops, currently in Thailand for Maitree exercises, have been advised to return to India,” an official spokesperson from the Ministry of External Affairs said here.
On the situation in Thailand, he stated: “India is concerned with the recent developments in Thailand. We are monitoring the evolving situation closely. The Indian community in Thailand is safe. As a friendly neighbour, with civilisational affinities, we hope for an urgent political resolution and restoration of normalcy based on the principles of democracy, the will of the people and the rule of law in Thailand.”
The Indian government move, at a time when New Delhi is in a political transition with a new government under Narendra Modi set to take charge on Monday, came a day after the Defence Ministry officials asked the Ministry of External Affairs to take a call on the withdrawal of the Army contingent, sources said.
The Indian contingent comprises 45 personnel, including three officers and five Junior Commissioned officers, from 21 Punjab battalion, which has its base in Kapurthala in Punjab.
The contingent had left for Thailand only on Tuesday night to participate in the joint exercise ‘Maitree’ that had counter-terrorism as its focus and was slated to begin on Saturday. After the situation worsened in Thailand over martial law being declared and the civilian government toppled in the military coup, the MoD was concerned over the developments, but still sent the contingent, as it was too late to back out after scheduling the joint exercise months in advance. India has wooed Thailand to strengthen military ties for long, to counter China’s moves in the neighbourhood.