Changing Contours of India – Thailand relations


  • India and Thailand have historical and cultural roots that reach back much beyond our 70 years of diplomatic relations.
  • Both countries have been shaped and remain linked by the great forces of history and culture that span thousands of years.
  • Thai academics have found that our close historical and cultural ties somehow seem to have been interrupted and now need to be rekindled

Historical Background

  • India and Thailand, is located in each other’s extended neighborhood, sharing a maritime boundary in the Andaman Sea.
  • The shared link of Buddhism is echoed in regular pilgrimages to places of Buddhist interest in India by a large number of Thai people.
  • Hindu elements can be found among those reflected in Thai architecture, arts, sculpture, dance, drama and literature.
  • The Thai language incorporates Pali and Sanskrit influences. A large Indian Diaspora living and working in Thailand is another important bond.

Strategic partnership

  • In the past two decades, with regular political exchanges, growing trade and investment, India’s ties with Thailand have now evolved into a comprehensive partnership.
  • India’s ‘Act East’ policy has been complemented by Thailand’s ‘Look West’ policy in bringing the two countries closer.
  • Both countries are important regional partners linking South and Southeast Asia.
  • They cooperate closely in the ASEAN, East Asia Summit (EAS) and BIMSTEC groupings as also Mekong Ganga Cooperation (MGC), Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) and Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
  • The India-AESAN Agreement on Trade in Goods was implemented in January 2010 and the India-ASEAN FTA in Services and Investments was signed in September 2014 and came into force in July 2015.

Modern day relationship

  • Modern-day Indians have only good things to say about travelling to Thailand.

Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid his respects to the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Bangkok, which touched the hearts and souls of the Thai people.

  • Last March, HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn made her 17th visit to receive the Padma Bhushan from President Pranab Mukherjee.
  • Booming tourism and exchanges of high-profile visits are helping to transform the modern Thai person’s perspective on new India and vice versa.

Changing contours

  • Both the nations are undergoing comprehensive reforms.
  • Sustainable and inclusive economic growth is on the table.
  • Based on initiatives such as Make in India and Thailand 4.0, as well as Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), both the nations can share their partnership.

Political relations

  • Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha visited India in 2016. An open-ended invitation has been extended to Prime Minister Modi to visit Thailand.
  • Meanwhile, an invitation has also been extended to the leaders of the 10 ASEAN member states to visit India for the Republic Day celebration on January 26, 2018. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of ASEAN-India relations.

Military and security relations

  • The security relations between the two are constructive and mutually beneficial, covering the land, sea and air dimensions.
  • There is also a common challenge in the fight against terrorism, narcotics and transnational organized crime.
  • As an emerging power, India has a valuable role to play, together with other regional powers, in ASEAN and the greater Indo-Pacific.
  • The ASEAN community of 625 million people is on the rise and is a worthy counterpart for the Indian market of 1.3 billion people.

Bilateral Institutional Mechanism

  • Joint Commission Meeting (JCM): India-Thailand JCM is at Foreign Ministers level. Wide-ranging discussions were held in the areas of economic and commercial cooperation, culture, S & T, ICT, education, agriculture, legal and consular matters.
  • Foreign office Consultations (FOC): India-Thailand FOC was held in New Delhi on 4 August 2016. Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Secretary (East) exchanged views on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest.
  • Defence Dialogue: RakshaMantri Manohar Parrikar met DPM & Defence Minister of Thailand on the sidelines of ADMM+ in Kuala Lumpur on 3 November 2015. The current Defence cooperation comprises regular joint exercises/joint maritime patrols near the international maritime boundary to counter terrorism, piracy and smuggling; training of officers at each other’s institutions and participation as observers in military exercises.

Economic & Commercial Partnership

Bilateral Trade:

  • The last few years have seen a rapid growth in bilateral trade, which crossed US$ 9 billion mark in year 2012-13.
  • The Framework Agreement on India-Thailand FTA was signed in Bangkok in October 2003 and the second protocol to amend it was signed during the visit of Thai PM to New Delhi in January 2012.

FDI in India and Indian Investments in Thailand:

  • Indian FDI into Thailand is around US$ 2 billion since 1970s.
  • Major investments from India to Thailand are in sectors such as agricultural products, minerals & ceramics, metal products and machinery, electrical and electronic products, chemicals and textiles.
  • Actual inflow of FDI from Thailand into India in 2015 was US $23.12 million.
  • Thai investments are mainly in infrastructure, real estate, food processing, chemicals, and hotel and hospitality sector.


  • Air connectivity between India and Thailand is growing with around 150 flights per week, reflecting rapidly growing passenger traffic between the two countries.
  • India and Thailand are cooperating closely on improving regional connectivity through initiatives such as India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, Asian Highway Network (under UNESCAP), BTILS under BIMSTEC framework.
  • The 2nd bilateral JWG on Infrastructure and Connectivity and 7th Task Force Meeting on the Trilateral Transport Linkage Project were held in Bangkok on 29 & 30 September 2014.


  • Cultural exchanges take place under the framework of a Cultural Exchange Programme (CEP) between the two governments.
  • An Indian Cultural centre was opened in Bangkok in September 2009.
  • Cultural Agreement Programme for 2016-19 was signed during the visit of Thai PM to India in June 2016.
  • A number of India Studies Centers are operational in prestigious Thai Universities.
  • Regular visits of Indian cultural troupes are organized, in addition to Indian film and food festivals etc.
  • Embassy in collaboration with Ministry of Culture and several local partners organized Festival of India in Thailand in March 2014 and the 2nd edition was organized from March-May 2015.
  • Over 6000 people participated in the 2nd International Yoga Day celebrations at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok on 26 June 2016.

Indian Diaspora in Thailand:

  • It is estimated that there are around 250,000 people of Indian origin in Thailand.
  • Many of them have lived here for several generations over the past century. Majority of them hold Thai nationality.
  • The Indian community mainly comprises Sikhs, Punjabis, Gorakhpuris, Tamils and Sindhis. Two persons of Indian origin from Thailand have been awarded the PravasiSamman in 2006 and 2010.
  • Thailand is working hard with India to link these two markets through India’s Northeastern region and Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar.
  • However, beyond the much awaited India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, modes of connectivity, particularly maritime and air, can also be utilized to their maximum potential.
  • Political will on all sides will also ensure delivery of the RCEP and BIMSTEC FTAs to give an added economic boost to ASEAN, South Asia and beyond.

Great opportunities ahead

  • Thailand, set in the context of ASEAN, APEC, BIMSTEC, IORA, ACD, and being well established on global value chains, holds great opportunities for India, especially in manufacturing and services.
  • New initiatives such as the Eastern Economic Corridor offer opportunities in the areas of next generation automotive, aviation, smart electronics, robotics, digital economy, healthcare, biotech, biofuel and bio-chemicals.
  • This and other initiatives are part of the Thailand 4.0 national strategy that will transform Thailand into a high income economy.
  • People to people contacts are great, with 1.2 million Indians visiting Thailand every year.
  • A healthy people-to-people contacts adds to the reserve of goodwill that Indians have for Thais.


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