Both nations to speed up negotiations on transfer of sentenced persons

After holding talks last week to step up defence cooperation, Thailand and India are aiming to accelerate pacts to ensure that Bangkok does not remain a magnet for fugitives from here.

The two sides also held talks on connecting mega ports being built in Myanmar and Thailand with Indian ports during the ongoing visit of Thailand Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul.

Rule of law

“Our government attaches great importance to the rule of law working closely with other like-minded countries,'' said Mr. Tovichakchaikul when asked whether Thailand would extradite fugitives to India just as it did with Viktor Bout, a Russian citizen, who was transferred to U.S. custody on terrorism charges despite a plea from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

With several Indian gangsters known to have operated out of Bangkok and other cities of Thailand, the visiting Minister said the two sides were keen on accelerating negotiations on transfer of sentenced persons and an extradition treaty.

At present, the India-Thailand Joint Working Group on Security Cooperation looks into transnational crimes, counter terrorism and criminal justice matters. “We are confident our cooperation will be closer in future,'' he said when asked if such gestures would also be extended to non-western countries as well.

Mr. Tovichakchaikul is here to prepare for the visit of Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra who will be the chief guest at the Republic Day parade.

Sister of the former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who now lives in self-exile in Dubai, and elected this July after an acrimonious spell of domestic politics, Ms. Shinawatra would in fact visit India twice, the second time towards the end of next year for the India-Asean commemorative summit.

Political unanimity

However, there is political unanimity in the Thai political class on closer ties with India. “Political uncertainty will not affect ties. All political parties would like to expand ties with economies like India. Being part of the Asean, they will continue with the integration process chalked out for the next four years,'' then Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva who is now in the Opposition had told The Hindu during his visit to India early this year.

Connectivity issue

The Thai Foreign Minister also touched on the issue of connectivity. Pointing out that India is four hours away by air, he wanted both sides to step up air connectivity in the medium term by utilising all available capacity.

In the long term, he suggested accelerating the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway besides focussing on connecting Indian ports with two mega port projects — Myanmar's Dawei Port and Pak Bara in Thailand — where Thai companies are investing in a big way.

On the trade front, the Minister pointed out that the Early Harvest Scheme of the proposed Free Trade Agreement had already led to near doubling of bilateral trade, making India Thailand's 17th largest trading partner.

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