Bangkok: Four Indian naval ships visited Thailand`s Phuket island, as part of a professional exchange cooperation programme, signalling a further boost in defence ties between the two countries which astride one of the strategic international maritime shipping lanes.
Naval exchanges form an important component of the overall bilateral cooperation between India and Thailand.
"The visit of the ships of the 1st Training Squadron of the Indian Navy to Royal Thai Navy has further enhanced the close cooperation and friendship that exists between the two navies, India`s Ambassador to Thailand Harsh Vardhan Shringla told PTI.
The four-day visit to Phuket, home to Thailand`s Third (Andaman) Naval Command, is significant, said Shringla, who hosted a reception onboard INS Sujata on Wednesday.
The 1st Training Squadron of the Indian Navy (INS Ghariyal, INS Sujata, ICGS Varuna, INS Sudarshini) left Phuket yesterday.
The India-Thailand Defence cooperation includes regular joint exercises, training of officers at each other`s armed forces institutions.
During the visit, personnel of the Indian Navy and the Royal Thai Navy carried out professional exchanges and social events including community service at a local school.
"The Coordinated Patrolling carried out by two of the most advanced and modern navies of the region have not only enhanced mutual confidence levels but have also led to effective implementation of the Law of the Seas to prevent illegal activities.
"With both India and Thailand sitting astride one of the most important international maritime shipping lanes, the responsibility to safeguard these sea lines of communication is only likely to increase in the future," he said.
Shringla, during his meeting with the Governor of Phuket Maitre Inthusud, discussed issues of mutual interest and people-to-people contacts.
The Ambassador said the Governor wanted THAI to re-start direct flights from Phuket to India again and had written to officials. About 250,000 to 300,000 Indian tourists visit Phuket every year.
"Bilateral trade, currently at USD 9 billion, is set to get a further boost with the signing of a Free Trade Agreement under negotiation between our two countries," Shringla said.
Recently, the two navies concluded the 18th?Cycle of Coordinated Patrols (CORPAT) at Port Blair.