Elevating their bilateral partnership to a new level, India and Oman have inked eight agreements in the fields of health, outer space, tourism and military cooperation during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s maiden visit to the energy-rich Gulf sultanate.
High on optics as well as substance, Mr Modi visited an iconic mosque and Shiva temple in a visit that saw the two countries place their multi-faceted relationship onto a new trajectory. The delegation-level talks between Mr Modi and Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said al Said, in Muscat has pushed the envelope for India’s partnership with the Gulf country.
Defence cooperation has emerged as an important pillar of India-Oman relations, with reports of a possible Indian military base in Oman amid shifting geopolitical equations in the Indian Ocean region. In the joint statement, the two maritime neighbours agreed to hold regular joint exercises by the three defence forces and strengthen cooperation in coastal defence. The next meeting for the Joint Military Cooperation Committee in 2018 has been planned in Muscat.
The two sides agreed to explore the opportunities under the “Make in India” initiative in defence production and enabling research collaboration between the National Defence College in Oman and the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses in India.
Boosting economic ties
Economic relations received a fresh impetus with Oman inviting Indian companies to invest in the SEZs of Duqm, Sohar and Salalahthe. India has also proposed possible collaboration in sectors like minerals and mining, manufacturing, logistics, infrastructure, tourism, agriculture and fisheries, IT and IT enabled-services, skills development and innovation. The two sides also decided to fast-track an early finalisation of the Bilateral Investment Treaty, which would enhance and protect bilateral investments through the introduction of a legal framework. Bilateral trade between India and Oman rose 3.6 per cent from US$ 3.8 billion in 2015-16 to US$ 4 billion in 2016-17.
On the energy front, India and Oman expressed the need to explore possibilities of partnering in building strategic oil reserves and developing capabilities in harnessing renewable sources of energy, especially solar energy under the International Solar Alliance.
An agreement on the mutual visa exemption for holders of diplomatic, special service and official passports was also signed.
The two sides also decided to expand cooperation in areas of mutual interests like space, cyber security, renewable energy and food security.
Connecting to diaspora
Wrapping up his four-nation tour in West Asia, Mr Modi addressed an excited Indian community in Muscat and showcased India’s improving business climate and its attractiveness as an investment destination in the India-Oman business meet.
Earlier in his address to the Indian community he had outlined his government’s mantra of “minimum government, maximum governance” and contrasted it with the misrule that had existed under the Congress system for 70 years.
Sultan Qaboos appreciated the contribution of honest and hard-working Indian nationals in the development of Oman, said Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of India’s external affairs ministry in a tweet.
Before departing for India, Mr Modi visited Oman’s biggest mosque, Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, in Muscat which has a unique Indian connect. It was built by 200 craftsmen from India from 300,000 tonnes of Indian sandstone. He also performed ä traditional abhishekam ceremony at the 125-year-old Shiv temple that was established by the merchant community from Gujarat.
(Pritha Mahanti contributed inputs for this article)
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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