March 08, 2014 00:00 By Nophakhun Limsamarnphun
Upbeat on conclusion of FTA talks with Kingdom this year
India’s new ambassador to Thailand, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, highlights the economic, business and other opportunities between the two countries.
“Trade and investment are clearly the most important opportunities. Bilateral trade last year was about [US]$9 billion [Bt290 billion] and we hope to take that amount to a much higher level. We’re in the process of negotiating a [comprehensive] free-trade agreement between the two countries.
“We believe the two countries will continue to negotiate the final FTA [despite the ongoing political challenge in Thailand] and at an appropriate time we will be able to conclude the talks, possibly this year.
“We’re already in the advanced stage of negotiations, close to 90 per cent. We also heard a similar sentiment from the Thai side. The FTA will cover not only trade but also services and investment. We expect a significant impact.
“Regarding the political situation here, I could say that we understand the situation because India is also a democracy. We see what is happening in Thailand as part of the democratic process.
“For us, it’s not new – we see the same thing in India. In any democracy, there is a certain amount of gives and takes, negotiations, and people are part of the process. Thailand is a vibrant democracy, and we see it at work.
“Regarding Khun Satit Segal, in general, we don’t get involved in the internal affairs of another country. Any decision by the government of Thailand is not our business. We just follow the media and have not heard of any particular move against any citizen of that nature.
“On India’s connectivity with Asean countries, it’s an integral part of our ‘Look East’ policy, which means Myanmar and Thailand are among the first countries, as we share the maritime border with Thailand.
“In terms of tourism, Thailand is a preferred destination choice for Indian tourists with total arrivals of 1 million last year. As of a result, we have excellent air connectivity, with about 170 flights per week between the two countries [and] with 10 Indian cities linked by air with Thailand.
“On land connectivity, the big project is the three-nation highway linking India with Southeast Asia through Myanmar and Thailand. We have built the highway close to the border with Myanmar, while the middle portion has been done by Myanmar and the last portion by Thailand.
“The 1,500-kilometre highway will be completed in 2016 for the transportation of people, goods and services. There will also be development corridors in which industries will come up along the highway.
“On sea connectivity, the Dawei deep-sea port project in Myanmar is in fact on the same latitude with India’s Chennai port and Bangalore in southern India.
“Thailand and India have been closely associated for centuries in terms of culture, spirituality, languages and religion as well as in trade and investment.
“Thai companies have taken a prominent role in investments in India. Infrastructure investment is an area that we want to encourage Thai firms to invest in India. The India government has plans worth up to $1 trillion for infrastructure projects such as ports, roads, flyovers, bridges.
“For manufacturing and services, there are interests from Thailand to invest in the automotive sector as well as in the jewellery sector.”