Did you know that the origin of the Thai greeting
The ubiquitous wai (hands together and bowed head) also originated in India as did Thai script and Pali language which is what the most sacred Buddhist religious texts are written in. Even the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration logo reflects the close ties as it showcases the Hindu God, Lord Indra.
Public service runs in the family in the case of Suchitra Durai; four generations of her family have worked in high-level government positions in India so it seems almost fated that she would as well. Looking many decades into the past, her grandfather was a very senior level government official when India was still part of the British empire. Her father encouraged both her and her sister to be well educated and economically independent. Government service jobs in India offer the type of security he was seeking for his daughters as well as the opportunity to contribute something back to the country.
After graduating from university with a bachelor’s degree in English,
Since 1988, she has worked in various capacities for the Indian Foreign Service. Before being appointed to her position as Ambassador to Thailand 7 months ago, she served as the High Commissioner of India to Kenya, Ambassador to Somalia and Permanent Representative of India to the UN office in Nairobi. Before that, she served as India’s Ambassador to Eritrea. Prior to these major appointments, she worked in various other capacities for the Indian Foreign Service both at home and abroad, including positions in Vienna, Cairo, Buenos Aires and Madrid.
When I asked what drew her to a career in diplomacy she said with a smile, “Diplomacy combines patriotism with living abroad which is very attractive too many, including me.” After nearly three decades as a career diplomat, she is particularly excited about her appointment to Thailand. She has felt comfortable in her adjustment to the Kingdom and couldn’t recall any major stumbling blocks in her settlement into her new position. The cultural connection to Thailand and many years of diplomatic relations have formed a strong foundation for her to build upon. There are nearly 80,000 Indian nationals living in Thailand and the approximately 250,000 Thai-Indians help form a unique bridge between the two cultures.
Currently, there are nearly 5,000 Thai people enrolled in higher education programmes in India.
Thailand and India are no strangers to massive influxes of tourists. Every year, there are almost 1.6 million Indians who come to the Kingdom for tourism. Conversely, there are only 150,000 Thai people who visit India every year, the majority of them to visit holy Buddhist sites such as the birthplace of Buddha. “India has temples, of course, but also snow, adventure tourism, wildlife sanctuaries, beautiful beaches and a lot more to offer tourists,”
Economic collaboration is her largest initiative. Right now, there is about $12.5 billion USD worth of trade between Thailand and India; $7.6 billion in Thai exports to India and $4.86 billion in Indian exports to Thailand. In the ASEAN region, Thailand ranks as India’s
Reduced tariff rates and new initiatives, which both countries adhere to, have resulted in an eightfold increase in bilateral trade since 2000. 2017 saw 35% growth and 2018 saw 20% growth. By 2021,
Outside these major diplomatic initiatives,
The Indian cultural centre has been operating for ten years and offers a wide range of courses in language, dance, music and culture. For the recent coronation of Rama 10, India brought a famous dance troupe to celebrate. At the time of publishing, we have just missed International Yoga Day 2019 but put it on your calendar for next year. The Indian embassy hosts an event for nearly 8,000 people at Chulalongkorn University to practice yoga together. The Indian Social Club Fun Fair is another annual event that draws crowds of over 10,000 people.
If sports are your thing, register for the Sikh Association’s annual road race. I did it a few years ago and it was a lot of fun. If you attend any of the
Remaining consistent with her theme of making contemporary India more visible to Thailand,