By Kornchanok Raksaseri
India will not change its policy towards Thailand and will look forward to expanding economic diplomacy, said Shri Anil Wadhwa, secretary (East) of his country's Ministry of External Affairs.
Amid the transition periods of both India, which just elected a new government this month, and Thailand, where power has been seized by the military, Wadhwa – previously the Indian ambassador to Thailand – said there would not be much change in his country’s foreign policies except that it would put mor emphasis on economic diplomacy.
For Thailand in particular, India will look forward to progress with bilateral and multilateral pacts, as many agreements have been reached in principle but still need ratification by the Thai Parliament according to Thai law, he said.
“We understand that this is a process of affairs in Thai history and it happened because of the circumstances you understand. So we’ll wait for normalisation of Thailand. At the same time we will continue to talk to whichever sector in Thailand, because of the old relationship between the two countries and the people-to-people relationship,” he said.
Wadhwa said one of the most important projects was the trilateral highway project linking Thailand and India through Myanmar.
“Both India and Thailand have an interest [in making] sure that the trilateral [highway] comes on as expected in early 2016. The [schedule] was set taking into account the Asean Economic Community. It would contribute to the connectivity and integration which is happening within Asean,” he said.
The other project that India is looking forward to progressing is the one in Dawei, Myanmar, which will provide better maritime connectivity for the three countries and the region, he said.
Wadhwa said Thai-India bilateral trade was currently worth US$10 billion (B324
billion) a year, and India expected more cooperation in many areas including shipping and the electronics and microchip industry, in which Thailand has expertise.
“A study has shown that by 2020, three-quarters of our [India’s] requirement of electronics and chips would have to be imported at the current rate of capacity of manufacturing.”
He added that Thailand’s expertise in construction could also contribute to India in its three industrial-corridor projects: Delhi-Mumbai, Chennai-Bangalore and Amritsar-Delhi-Kolkata.
The former ambassador said India also wanted to increase cooperation and trade with Thailand in the food-processing industry.
“Thirty-six per cent of freshly produced [food] is wasted in India. Unfortunately, that area has been neglected so far by Thai companies. Thai companies are very good at preservation techniques and distribution,” he said.