Confirming its participation in the Cobra Gold 2016, India has expressed its intent to deepen its maritime and defence cooperation with Thailand. The participation was confirmed by Anil Wadhwa, Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, in a briefing during Vice President Hamid Ansari’s ongoing visit to Thailand from February 3-5. “We confirmed that India will participate in Cobra Gold 2016 [multilateral amphibious exercise] and Operation Maitri [counter-insurgency] operations,” said Mr. Wadhwa.
India and Thailand had recently held a joint task force meeting in Delhi where the main aim was to deepen maritime and defence cooperation. The two sides discussed a range of issues including ocean safety, disaster management and anti-terror drills. During the meeting, the delegations had also confirmed that India and Thailand will soon hold naval exercises in the Andaman Seas.
Thailand is strategically very important to India. The two countries share a maritime boundary and Thailand is seen as a bridge between Southeast Asia and East Asia for India. Thailand is also the key Southeast Asian country for India’s ‘Act East Policy’ to succeed.
The bilateral and multilateral infrastructure and security projects are expected gain momentum in the coming months when the entire top brass of the Thai leadership, including Prime Minister Gen. Chan-o-cha, visit New Delhi.
South China Sea
The South China Sea has become a major area of focus for India, as it has begun taking a firm position on the freedom of navigation in the region. India has also been strengthening alliances with Southeast Asian countries to balance China’s growing regional assertion. India views Thailand as a key partner in this region to bolster its maritime security .
During his address at the Chulalongkorn University in Thailand, referring to the South China Sea Mr Ansari said, “India supports collective efforts by ASEAN member states and China to conclude the code of conduct to keep peace and stability in the region.” Making a strong pitch for enhancing maritime cooperation in the region, Mr Ansari spoke about partnering with like minded countries. “The spreading tide of extremism and terrorism is a threat we (India and Thailand) both face. Successfully dealing with such threats requires strong cooperation among like- minded partners,” Mr Ansari elaborated.
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