India-Thailand Relations : Background, Cultural Ties | UPSC Notes

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India-Thailand Relations : Background, Cultural Ties | UPSC Notes

• India and Thailand have strong cultural ties and work well together. These are the result of ages of deep historical and cultural ties.

• Classical Indian works in Sanskrit and Pali use names like Kathakosha, Suvarnabhumi (the land of God), and Suvarnadvipa (the golden island) to talk about the area.

• George Coedes, a French scholar, came up with the term “Farther India” to describe the states that were “civilised by India.” It means Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar, and the Malay states from a geographical point of view.

• In 1947, when India got its freedom, full diplomatic ties were set up. But India and Thailand barely talked to each other because there wasn’t much reason for India to look to Thailand for business and trade. During the Cold War, they were on different sides of the two superpower blocs led by the USSR and the USA. After the economic boom in East Asia in the 1970s and the end of the Cold War, things changed. Since then, most of the time, ties between Thailand and India have been good.

• Since 2001, relations between India and Thailand have grown a lot, with more economic and business ties, high-level visits, and the signing of many deals. India and Thailand work together in groups like ASEAN and BIMSTEC, which is made up of Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal, and Bhutan.

• India is part of the six-country Mekong–Ganga Cooperation (MGC) and the Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD), which was started by Thailand in 2002.

• India’s ties with Thailand have grown into a full partnership over the past 20 years, thanks to regular government talks and more trade and investment. The “Act East” policy of India and the “Act West” policy of Thailand have helped bring the two countries closer together.

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Thailand wants to be a regional hub because it is in the middle of South East Asia. In 1997, it started a strategy called “Look West.” This is meant to give importance to building stronger relationships with South Asia and other places.

Thailand’s “Look West” policy goes well with India’s “Look East” policy, which is now called “Act East” and has given the two countries a solid foundation for improving their ties in important ways. In 2016, Thailand also started its ‘Act West’ policy.

• India and Thailand share a maritime border in the Andaman Sea. • The ASEAN-India FTA in Services and Investments was signed in September 2014 and went into effect in July 2015.

Areas of Cooperation

India’s religious links to Thailand

• India’s biggest impact on Southeast Asia was in the area of faith. This is how Shivaism, Vaishnavism, Theravada Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism, and later Sinhalese Buddhism spread to the area.

• The Mon kings of Dvaravati and the Khmers supported Buddhism and built a number of Buddhist buildings, but they also took on Brahmanical customs and ways of life.

• Aside from the well-known Brahmanical gods like Ganesh, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva, Thailand also worships gods like Indra that aren’t very common in India.

• Even though there is no archaeological proof of the story of Rama in Thailand, the city of Ayutthaya, which was founded in Central Thailand in the 10th century CE, is based on Ayodhya, where Lord Rama was born.

• The nationalist historian RC Majumdar, for example, wrote that “the Hindu colonists brought with them the whole framework of their culture and civilization, and this was transplanted in its entirety among the people who had not yet evolved from their primitive barbarism.”

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• Many local languages in the area, like Thai, Malay, and Javanese, have a lot of words that come from Sanskrit, Pali, and Dravidian. The script used to write the Thai language comes from the Southern Indian Pallava alphabet.

• The Constitution of India was first read in Thai by the President of the National Assembly and the Speaker of the House of Representatives of Thailand in March 2021. This was part of an event called India@75, which was put on by the Embassy.

Indian Diaspora in Thailand

• About 250,000 people in Thailand are from India, and many of them have been living there for many generations.

Economic and Commercial Partnership:

The trade and investments between our two countries are strong and rising.

• Even though there was a pandemic, our two-way trade was worth US$12.12 billion in 2019 and US$9.76 billion in 2020.


• There were close to 160,000 Thai tourists in India, most of whom went to Buddhist pilgrimage places.

• India and Thailand work closely together on projects like the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, the Asian Highway Network (under UNESCAP), and the BTILS under the BIMSTEC framework to improve regional connections.

Defence Cooperation:

• Since 2015, India has taken part in Ex-Cobra Gold, the largest military drill in the Asia-Pacific region, as a “Observer Plus.”

• Every year, the armed forces of both countries work together in drills.

• Do the MAITREE (Army) drill.

• Do SIAM BHARAT (Air Force) exercises.

In line with India’s SAGAR Vision: • As part of the Indian Government’s vision of Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), the Indian Navy has been helping countries in the Indian Ocean Region with Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Surveillance, Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), and other activities that build and improve their capabilities when they ask for help.

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Bilateral Institutional Mechanisms:

• Meetings of the Joint Commission; • Talks with the Foreign Office

• Maritime Cooperation Joint Task Force (JTF)

Multilateral Forum Cooperation

• South and Southeast Asia are linked by both countries, which are important regional neighbours.

• They work together closely in the ASEAN, East Asia Summit (EAS), Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), Mekong Gang Cooperation (MGC), and Asia Cooperation Dialogue (ACD) groups.

Today, the relationship between India and Thailand is not just looked at from a social and cultural point of view. Since the relationship in today’s world has grown to cover a lot of ground. This cooperation between the two countries could help the whole area grow, not just the two countries involved.

This is clear because cooperation in the areas of security, economics, and connectivity would have the same amount of effect on the neighbouring states and the region as a whole.