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International Relations

India and Oman

  • 31 Jan 2022
  • 8 min read

For Prelims: Location of Oman and the Neighbourhood, Gulf Cooperation Council, Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), Defence Exercises, Port of Duqm, Indian Ocean Naval Symposium,

For mains: Bilateral Groupings & Agreements, Effect of Policies & Politics of Countries on India's Interests, India- Oman Relations, Oman’s significance for India.

Why in News

The Secretary General of the Ministry of Defence of the Sultanate of Oman is on a visit to India.

  • He will be in Delhi to co-chair the Joint Military Cooperation Committee (JMCC) with India’s Defence Secretary.

Key Points

  • Background:
    • The two countries across the Arabian Sea are linked by geography, history and culture and enjoy warm and cordial relations, which are attributed to historical maritime trade linkages.
    • While people-to-people contact between India and Oman can be traced back 5000 years, diplomatic relations were established in 1955 and the relationship was upgraded to Strategic partnership in 2008. Oman has been a key pillar of India's West Asia Policy.
    • Gandhi Peace Prize 2019 was conferred on Late HM Sultan Qaboos in recognition of his leadership in strengthening the ties between India & Oman and his efforts to promote peace in the Gulf region.
  • Defence Relations:
    • Joint Military Cooperation Committee:
      • The JMCC is the highest forum of engagement between India and Oman in the field of defence.
      • The JMCC is expected to meet annually, but could not be organised since 2018 when the meeting of the 9th JMCC was held in Oman.
        • The 10th JMCC is expected to comprehensively evaluate the ongoing defence exchanges and provide a roadmap for further strengthening defence ties in the coming years.
    • Military Exercises:
      • Army exercise: Al Najah
      • Air Force exercise: Eastern Bridge
      • Naval Exercise: Naseem Al Bahr
  • Economic & Commercial Relations:
    • Institutional mechanisms like Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) and Joint Business Council (JBC) oversee economic cooperation between India and Oman.
    • India is among Oman’s top trading partners.
      • For Oman, India was the 3rd largest (after UAE and China) source for its imports and 3rd largest market (after UAE and Saudi Arabia) for its non-oil exports in 2019.
    • Major Indian financial institutions have a presence in Oman. Indian companies have invested in Oman in sectors like iron and steel, cement, fertilisers, textile etc.
    • India-Oman Joint Investment Fund (OIJIF), a JV between State Bank of India and State General Reserve Fund (SGRF) of Oman, a special purpose vehicle to invest in India, has been operational.
  • Indian Community in Oman:
    • There are about 6.2 lakh Indians in Oman, of which about 4.8 lakh are workers and professionals. There are Indian families living in Oman for more than 150-200 years.
    • There are many Indian schools offering CBSE syllabus catering to the educational needs of about 45,000 Indian children.

Oman’s Strategic Significance for India

  • About:
    • Oman is India’s closest defence partner in the Gulf region and an important anchor for India’s defence and strategic interests.
      • Oman is at the gateway of Strait of Hormuz through which India imports one-fifth of its oil imports.
    • Defence cooperation has emerged as a key pillar for the robust India-Oman strategic partnership. Defence exchanges are guided by a Framework MOU which was recently renewed in 2021.
    • Oman is the only country in the Gulf region with which all three services of the Indian armed forces conduct regular bilateral exercises and staff talks, enabling close cooperation and trust at the professional level.
    • Oman also provides critical operational support to Indian naval deployments in the Arabian sea for anti-piracy missions.
    • Bilateral training cooperation between the two sides is also robust with Omani forces regularly subscribing to training courses in India both at professional as well as higher command level. Indian armed forces also subscribe to the Staff and Command courses conducted in Oman.
    • Oman also actively participates in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).
    • India has supplied rifles to Oman. Also, India is considering setting up a defence production unit in Oman.
  • Port of Duqm:
    • In a strategic move to expand its footprint in the Indian Ocean region, India has secured access to the key Port of Duqm in Oman for military use and logistical support. This is part of India’s maritime strategy to counter Chinese influence and activities in the region.
    • The Port of Duqm is situated on the southeastern seaboard of Oman, overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean.
    • It is strategically located, in close proximity to the Chabahar port in Iran. With the Assumption Island being developed in Seychelles and Agalega in Mauritius, Duqm fits into India’s proactive maritime security roadmap.
    • The Port of Duqm also has a special economic zone, where about USD 1.8 billion investments are being made by some Indian companies.

Way Forward

  • India does not have enough energy resources to serve its current or future energy requirements. The rapidly growing energy demand has contributed to the need for long term energy partnerships with countries like Oman.
  • Oman’s Duqm Port is situated in the middle of international shipping lanes connecting East with West Asia.
  • India needs to engage with Oman and take initiatives to utilise opportunities arising out of the Duqm Port industrial city.
  • India should also work closely with Oman to enhance strategic depth in the region and add heft to its Indo-Pacific vision in the Western and Southern Part of Indian Ocean.

Source: IE

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