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Bolstering bilateral ties between India and Oman

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Bolstering bilateral ties between India and Oman

Prime Minister Modi’s Oman visit is set to be a pivotal one that will accelerate the momentum of India-Oman bilateral cooperation and elevate it to new heights that would lead to big achievements

India and Oman have expanded their bilateral cooperation and interactions since the establishment of their diplomatic relations in 1955 and have forged a mutually beneficial ‘strategic partnership’. Both the nations are bound by civilisational and historical links spanning over 5,000 years. The Sultanate of Oman has been a very important strategic partner for India and the two nations have been bound by friendship and people-to-people contact on a consistent basis. Regular high-level visits and exchanges have been a key feature of this partnership. Ministerial level visits during 2017 included the visit of Oman’s Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs to New Delhi in April 2017 and India’s Minister of State for Culture (Independent Charge) and Environment, Forest & Climate Change Mahesh Sharma’s visit to Muscat in December 2017.

This year kick-starts with a much awaited visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 11 and 12. The last visit by an Indian Prime Minister was about 10 years ago, in 2008 by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Prime Minister Modi’s visit is set to be a pivotal one that will accelerate the momentum of India-Oman bilateral cooperation and elevate it to new heights. Increase in bilateral trade and investment between the countries is also expected to be heightened with the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) and agreements during the visit. “The Indian Embassy had been receiving several enquiries about the likely Prime Minister’s visit to Oman, especially after he visited parts of the Middle East earlier,” stated an official of the Embassy.

 

Like he has done in visits to countries which house large Indian communities, Modi will be addressing the Indian diaspora in Oman. An overwhelming crowd of about 25,000 Indians have registered for the event to hear the Prime Minister. Various sections of the Indian community, including students, professionals, workers, businessmen, homemakers and senior citizens, will be attending the event. It is being organised with the support of the Indian community in Oman.

Indian Social Club and various organisations have taken on the mammoth task of helping the Indian diaspora register for the event. The excitement is palpable considering the immense popularity enjoyed by Prime Minister Modi, coupled with the pleasure of being addressed by him in person in their country of residence. “It is great to see the excitement in the Indian community as the number one man in India is visiting Muscat. This will go a long way in enhancing bilateral ties, in addition to enthusing the Indian residents. It promises to be a spectacular evening,” smiles Dr Satish Nambiar, Chairman, Indian Social Club.

Many will be coming to hear the Prime Minister with expectations of announcements that are conducive to the Indians who reside in Oman. Ekta Bhatnagar, a homemaker, says she would like to be able to vote for elections in India from Muscat. “More schools and a university campus for Indians would be a big help too,” she adds.

Bhal Joshi, a businessman, who has been residing in Oman for over 18 years, is delighted to welcome Modi to Muscat. “He is the first Prime Minister who has Indians as his priority. His dedication to erase red tapism in various sectors and streamlining processes in Government departments has begun to curb corruption. I congratulate the Prime Minister for his bold actions for a better, digital India and heartily welcome him to peaceful Oman,” opines Joshi.

Oman is home to 0.8 million Indians. India and Oman enjoy a mutually beneficial strategic partnership, which is based on their shared interests, mutual understanding and respect for each other’s cultures, interests and sensitivities. The history of trade relations between the two nations goes back to several millennia. In modern times, their economic and commercial relations continue to be robust. Bilateral trade has returned to its upward trend and its value increased from $3.8 billion in 2015-16 to four billion dollar in 2016-17.

It already crossed $ 3.76 billion during April-October 2017 and is likely to reach five billion dollar during the year ending March 2018. Investment flows have been healthy both ways, as is reflected in several joint ventures, established both in India and Oman.

There are more than 2,900 Indo-Omani joint ventures in Oman. The India-Oman Joint Investment Fund (OIJIF) has been operational and an initial corpus of $100 million has been fully utilised. OIJIF has raised another $220 million for the second portion, which is being invested. Indian companies are among leading investors in Sohar and Salalah freezones and they are interested in investing in Duqm Special Economic Zone too, where an India-Oman joint venture ‘Sebacic Oman’ is setting up the largest sebacic acid manufacturing plant in the Middle East, which will be worth $1.2 billion on completion.

India has always been a steady partner in Oman’s growth story. Indian companies have been encouraged to participate in key sectors of Oman, including logistics, minerals and mining and manufacturing as well as in freezones and special economic zones. India has already been contributing to the human resource development of Oman through providing professional training under its Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme. From food security to renewable energy, SME development, cyber security, space applications, defence, engineering goods, Information Technology and IT Enable Services, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, education and training, there is remarkable opportunity for expanding India-Oman cooperation.

India and Oman have been collaborating on security matters, including counter-terrorism. The bilateral defence cooperation, characterised by joint military exercises and regular exchange of visits, has also been growing. Since 2008, Oman has been extending its support to the Indian Navy’s anti-piracy missions and Indian Naval Ships are regularly welcomed by Oman for Over Seas Deployments. Royal Navy of Oman’s sailing vessel ‘Shabab Oman’ along with INS Tarangini participated in the joint sailing voyage from Muscat to Kochi in November 2015, tracing the ancient trading routes between India and Oman. The joint sailing was to commemorate the 60th anniversary of India-Oman diplomatic ties.

People-to-people exchanges have been an integral part of India-Oman strategic partnership. There are Indian business families who have been settled in Oman for long periods ranging from 15 to 200 years. A notable feature of people-to-people relations between India and Oman in recent times has been the increasing tourist flow to India. India has also emerged as a preferred destination for medical and wellness tourism, with a large number of Omanis choosing India for their medical treatment at various state-of-the-art hospitals. The Indian Embassy facilitates this via a special window for fast-track processing of medical visas.

“India remains committed to nurturing and expanding its strategic partnership with Oman through enhancing the existing cooperation and identifying new areas for bilateral, regional and global collaboration with a view to meet the aspirations for our two countries,” says Indra Mani Pandey, Ambassador of India to Oman.

This visit by Prime Minister Modi is extremely significant and has been much awaited.

(The writer is a columnist, educator and entrepreneur) 

 
 
 
 
 

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