Bilateral army drills highlight ongoing defense ties between the two sides amid lingering challenges.
On August 6, India and Thailand kicked off this year’s iteration of their joint army exercise in the latest defense interaction between the two Asian states. The exercises once again shed light on the ongoing security collaboration that is underway between the two countries as part of their wider bilateral relationship despite lingering challenges.
India and Thailand have already established a basic base for defense collaboration, with the inking of a memorandum of understanding on defense cooperation between the two sides back in January 2012 and a range of exercises, joint patrols, exchanges, and dialogues in place. But both sides have also been looking to step up security ties in recent years as well amid wider trends within their respective foreign policies as well as within the region more generally, despite the structural constraints that remain in doing so.
On the army side, one of the key interactions within this broader relationship is Exercise Maitree. Recent iterations of the exercise have tended to last about two weeks and involve around 100 troops from the Indian Army and the Royal Thailand Army. Last year’s iteration, Ex Maitree-17, occurred at Bakloh in Chamba district in Himachal Pradesh in July, with approximately 50 troops from the Indian and Thai sides.
This month, the defense side of the India-Thailand relationship was in the headlines again with the holding of the latest iteration of Exercise Maitree. The exercise involving New Delhi and Bangkok, which kicked off on August 6 in Thailand, is expected to last until August 19.
According to the Indian defense ministry, the exercise is focusing on the honing of tactical and technical skills in joint counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations in rural and urban scenarios. Consistent with previous iterations of the exercise, it includes training, planning, and execution of tactical drills to enhance interoperability and discussions among experts from both sides on related issues.
Following Exercise Maitree, both sides will continue their defense interactions through the year as part of the bilateral relationship and also wider regional initiatives as well. A notable example in this respect will be a first-of-its-kind military exercise in September held under the banner of the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). The exercise, to be held in Pune, is scheduled to feature the armies of all seven BIMSTEC countries – India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Thailand, and Myanmar — in a further testament to New Delhi’s growing emphasis on the security aspect of ties with regional states under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.