By Chutintorn Gongsakdi
It is an honour and a privilege to be able to offer a few words to capture this great moment in India-Thai relations. It is also a great joy that this important moment in our history comes at a time when the outlook for our two countries is brighter than ever. 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. A visit to the National Museum in New Delhi will only confirm this. Indeed, Thai academics have found that our close historical and cultural ties somehow seem to have been interrupted and now need to be rekindled.
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. I have the privilege of welcoming regular visits of the royal family to India. 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.
Both our countries are undergoing comprehensive reforms. We are pursuing sustainable and inclusive economic growth for our peoples. Based on initiatives such as Make in India and Thailand 4.0, as well as our Sufficiency Economy Philosophy (SEP) for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), I believe we can share our best practices and reform experiences. Indeed, we can complement each other for a win-win partnership. On the political side, relations are warm and friendly. 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 are constructive and mutually beneficial, covering the land, sea and air dimensions. We have also found a common challenge in the fight against terrorism, narcotics and transnational organised 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. 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, should also be utilised 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.
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 biochemicals. This and other initiatives are part of the Thailand 4.0 national strategy that will transform Thailand into a high income economy. So, secure your company’s future in ASEAN; get established in Thailand or in any of the 10 ASEAN member states.
People to people contacts are great, with 1.2 million Indians visiting Thailand every year. This healthy people-to-people contacts adds to the reserve of goodwill that Indians have for Thais, which makes the life of this ambassador much easier.
In the years ahead, I would like to see Indians from all walks of life discovering and utilising the full potential of what “Amazing Thailand” has to offer. Similarly, I would like to help more and more Thais see “Incredible India” in its full greatness. In other words, I would like to see our people discover the New India and the New Thailand together.
I offer my sincere best wishes for the next 70 years of India-Thai relations.
Indian Express, August 1, 2017