Within the broader context of India’s ties to Southeast Asian states, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi has looked to advance under his “Act East” policy – a more action-oriented variant of the “Look East” policy pursued since the 1990s – India’s ties with Thailand remain relatively less developed compared to other states like Singapore and Vietnam.
Nonetheless, both sides have been trying to make further progress in several areas over the years from maritime security to defense industry collaboration.
As I have pointed out before, India and Thailand have a series of bilateral defense interactions in place, including regular joint exercises, officer training, and exchanges at various levels as outlined in a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation back in January 2012 In terms of joint exercises, the one between their two armies is called Exercise Maitree. Recent iterations of the exercise have tended to last two weeks and involve around 100 troops from the Indian Army and the Royal Thailand Army.
Last year, Ex Maitree-16, which commenced on July 15, saw the participation of 45 personnel of the Indian Army, with the Thai side participating with 50 personnel. Following the exercise, the Indian defense ministry said that the exercise included combined training, familiarization with weapons and equipment, analyzing drills and tactics while operating in a counterterrorism environment, and conducting operations as well as cordon and search, raids, and search and destroy missions.
This week, Ex-Maitree-17 kicked off between the two countries at Bakloh in Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh. Indian media outlets quoted a defense ministry spokesman as saying that the exercises, which will be conducted from July 3 to July 17, will involve approximately 50 troops from the Indian and Thai sides.
Little was disclosed about the exercise itself beyond the fact that the two armies would, as they did last year, jointly plan and execute several drills related to threats that would be encountered in a counterterrorism environment.