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From Looks to Action: Thailand-India Strategic Convergence and Defence Cooperation

Sasiwan Chinghcit is Visiting Fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • IDSA Occasional Paper No. 40

    After 67 years of diplomatic relations and two decades of collaboration in connecting India with Southeast Asia in January of 2012, Thailand and India finally signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Defence Cooperation. This effort to deepen defence and military ties between the two countries emerged relatively late when compared with those between India and most other Southeast Asian countries. Prior to 2012, Indo-Thai defence relations remained largely unaddressed and underdeveloped. Despite having established military engagements in the area of exercises, joint patrol and a defence dialogue under both bilateral and multilateral frameworks, the existing defence cooperation has lacked substance. This does not correspond with the increasing significance of the India-Thailand partnership and Asia’s changing power and security dynamics. From merely focusing on economic and mutual security interests, Thailand-India relations have in recent years expanded to recognise each other’s strategic significance. As a part of defence diplomacy, both sides now need to strengthen their military ties to complement their growing engagement in other dimensions and also fortify their changing foreign policy and security position in the region. Domestic demand is also there for each side to seek deeper defence collaboration with foreign countries in order to increase their military capacity and effectiveness and also defence industry. It remains to be seen to what extent and in what domain Thailand and India can manage to push their defence relations forward to explore this potential.

    About the Author

    Ms. Sasiwan Chingchit is a Program Officer in the Asia Foundation’s regional conflict unit and a Non-Resident WSD-Handa Fellow at the Pacific Forum, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Prior to joining the Foundation, she was an independent research consultant on Thailand’s domestic politics, security and foreign policy in Washington, DC and provided assistance in research on South and Southeast Asia at the Johns Hopkins University (SAIS) and the Stimson Center. Before 2011, Sasiwan was a lecturer at the Prince of Songkla University, leading and contributing to various research projects on conflict resolution, civil society and autonomy in Thailand’s insurgency-ridden Southern provinces. Her project at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), in New Delhi in 2013-2014, explored the potential of greater Indo-Thai defence and security cooperation. Sasiwan holds an MA and MPhil. in political science from Jawaharlal Nehru University, India, and a B.A. in international relations from Chulalongkorn University, Thailand.

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