BANGKOK: India and Thailand today discussed possibilities of joint ventures in defence manufacturing as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj wrapped up her three-day visit to the country.
Swaraj and the Thai leadership during bilateral consultations here discussed the possibilities of joint ventures in the defence sector ahead of the proposed visit of Thai defence minister Gen (Rtd) Prawit Wongsuwon to India this year, official sources said.
The current defence cooperation between the two countries comprises regular joint exercises/joint maritime patrols near the international boundary to counter terrorism, piracy and smuggling, training of officers at each other's armed forces training institutions and participation as observers in military exercises.
Now, India is looking forward to joint ventures in defence manufacturing, the sources said.
The initiative is significant keeping in view the growing Chinese influence in Thailand and its military might in Asia-Pacific.
The third meeting of the India-Thailand Defence Dialogue was held in New Delhi in May last year. Earlier, a bilateral MoU on defence cooperation was signed in January 2012.
During the visit, Swaraj co-chaired the Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) between the two countries after a break of three years and wide ranging discussions were held in the areas of economic and commercial cooperation, culture, science and technology, agriculture, legal and consular matters.
The two sides signed a number of important agreements, including a double taxation avoidance treaty, and exchanged instruments of ratification on the extradition treaty inked in 2013, which provides for the legal framework for seeking extradition of fugitive offenders.
Talking to reporters after the conclusion of the visit, MEA Secretary (East) Anil Wadhwa said that the visit gave an opportunity to review a whole gamut of things.
He said the the double tax avoidance treaty is significant as while about 60 Indian companies are in Thailand, there are a number of Thai companies operating in India.
The issue of the ambitious trilateral highway project between India and Thailand via Myanmar was also discussed during the meeting.
Replying to questions, Wadhwa said, "The trilateral highway between India and Thailand through Myanmar has got a special significance and is an important segment of India's connectivity with ASEAN."
The project, which was targeted to be completed by 2017-18 is now expected to be completed by 2018-19 owing to the delay in procedural issues and topographical problems. Later, addressing a gathering at the Centre for Bharat Studies at Mahidol University, the External Affairs Minister said, "India has today become a key location for global businesses looking to expand and invest outside the developed world."
"The impressive economic growth rates of over 7 per cent achieved by India has opened up new investment opportunities both in India and in Indian companies based abroad," she said.
She said that Indian industries particularly in sectors such as communication, software, automobile mining and minerals and manufacturing sectors are looking to invest abroad.
Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had discussed issues of mutual interest with Thai Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-O-cha on the sidelines of ASEAN summit in Nay Pyi Taw on November 12.
India has already extended an invitation to Thai PM to visit India.
During her talks with the Thai leadershp, Swaraj said that India is looking forward to an early visit of the Thai PM.