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India, Thailand decide to ramp up defence cooperation

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Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman calls on Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in Bangkok on Monday. Photo: Twitter

BANGKOK/NEW DELHI (PTI): India and Thailand have decided to step up defence and security cooperation, particularly in the maritime sphere, considering the evolving security situation in the critical sea lanes in the region, officials said.

The decision was taken after wide-ranging talks between Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Thai counterpart General Prawit Wongsuwon in Bangkok on Monday.

In a statement, the Indian Defence Ministry in New Delhi said that both sides decided to step up military-to-military engagement by commencing bilateral naval exercises.

"The ministers welcomed the positive momentum and substantive content of ongoing bilateral defence engagement and discussed measures to further enhance and deepen defence cooperation," it said.

Sitharaman also called on Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and discussed ways to enhance the bilateral ties.

In the talks, the two Defence Ministers also decided to explore strengthening current military drills between the Armies and Air Forces of the two countries.

"Both sides noted complementarities in their approaches to the Indo-Pacific region and decided to hold regular consultations on issues of mutual interest," the ministry said.

Officials said the two sides deliberated on the situation in the Indo-Pacific region where China has been trying to expand its influence.

The Ministry said the Thai Defence Minister welcomed India's initiative to host the inaugural BIMSTEC Army exercise and conclave of chiefs in India in September and confirmed Thailand's participation.

The BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) is a regional grouping comprising Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.

The grouping accounts for 22 per cent of the global population, and has a combined gross domestic product of USD 2.8 trillion.

Sitharaman arrived in Bangkok on Sunday along with an Indian delegation, on a three-day visit to strengthen Indo-Thai strategic ties.

Vice Minister for Defence General Roungrojana Chumrasromrun welcomed her and the delegation on arrival in Bangkok.

She also inspected a guard of honour in the Thai capital.

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