In possibly the first sale of BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles to another country, Thailand is in talks with India for their purchase, official sources said. A few other countries have also expressed interest in BrahMos but nothing has fructified yet.
“Negotiations are on. It may not happen this year, but most likely next year,” diplomatic sources said. While Thailand expressed interest in the missiles some time back, discussions picked pace after the visit of Royal Thai Navy Chief Admiral Ruddit to India in December last year.
As part of the expanding defence cooperation between the two countries, Thailand has made a request for repair and refurbishing their Dornier maritime patrol aircraft. “A joint team of Indian Navy, Bharat Electronics Limited and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited visited Thailand in mid-June to discuss the issue,” a defence source said.
In addition, Thailand Navy is looking to increase its capabilities and planning to induct more ships, defence sources said. In line with that, Indian Navy is exploring opportunities wherein India could help in ship design and has even “offered ship construction at the various defence public sector undertaking shipyards.” “The Indian Navy’s foreign cooperation initiatives include highlighting the capability of various Defence Public Sector Undertakings and Indian defence industry to friendly foreign navies,” the defence source stated.
Discussions are on to integrate Thailand into India’s coastal surveillance radar chain network which sources is “likely to be finalised by year end.” Several littoral states including Maldives and Seychelles have already been integrated into it.
Trilateral exercise ::
The inaugural India, Thailand and Singapore trilateral naval exercise announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his address at Shangri-La dialogue in June 2018 is scheduled to be held later this year. Finalising the exercise got delayed and it got a push during the visit of Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba to Thailand in April.
“India will host the first edition of the exercise in September this year,” diplomatic sources said adding Singapore will host the second edition and Thailand the third. The Initial Planning Conference to discuss the modalities of the exercise was held in May and the Final Planning Conference to finalise the details is scheduled to be held in August, officials said. Malaysia has also evinced interest in joining the exercise.
The two navies already conduct a Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) and a new bilateral exercise is also in the works apart from the trilateral. As members of the Indian Ocean rim association (IORA) and Indian Ocean Naval symposium (IONS), navies of India and Thailand are working closely in the areas of disaster risk management, maritime security safety, information sharing and interoperability.