Once a powerhouse in the Middle East, stretching down the east coast of Africa, Oman is the oldest independent state in the Arab world, with a history of over 100,000 years.
The country came into its own in the 1970s when its name was changed from Muscat (now the name of the capital) to Oman at the beginning of the reign of Sultan Qaboos. Oman’s historic significance doesn’t stop there. It is also considered one of the oldest human-inhabited places on Earth.
Oman is India’s closest ally in the Arabian Gulf region. With key Omani ports abutting the coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman leading into the Persian Gulf and towards the Gulf of Aden, Oman’s location is of utmost strategic importance to India.
The Sultanate of Oman is a strategic partner of India in the Gulf and an important interlocutor at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Arab League, and Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA).
Oman also accords a high priority to its ties with India. The two countries across the Arabian Sea are linked by geography, history, and culture and enjoy warm and cordial relations.
These are attributed to historical maritime trade linkages, the intimacy of the royal family with India, and the seminal role played by the Indian expatriate community in the building of Oman, which the Omani Government acknowledges.
The exchange of visits by high dignitaries between the two countries has been a regular feature ever since Oman and India established diplomatic relations.
Sultan of Oman Haitham Bin Tarik arrived in New Delhi on December 16 on a three-day State Visit to India. A high-level delegation, including senior Ministers and officials, accompanied the Sultan.
This first State Visit of Sultan Haitham bin Tarik to India marks a significant milestone in the diplomatic relations between India and the Sultanate of Oman. The Ministry of External Affairs said the visit will further reinforce the longstanding friendship and cooperation between India and Oman and strengthen bilateral ties.
External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar called on
Dr Jaishankar, in a social media post, said he values the guidance of the Sultan of Oman for further deepening the Indian-Oman Strategic Partnership.
India-Oman Defence cooperation has emerged as a critical pillar of the strategic partnership between the two countries. There has been a regular exchange of visits by Defense Ministers of both sides.
India’s Defense Minister visited Oman from May 20 to 22, 2016, during which four MOUs/Protocols were signed. Over the past few years, visits of the Defense Secretary, Chief of Naval Staff, and Chief of Army Staff to Oman, with reciprocal visits to India by all three Omani Service Commanders, Secretary General of Defence, etc., have also been witnessed.
The Ministries of Defence of both countries review their relations annually under the aegis of a Joint Military Cooperation Committee meeting. Air Force and Navy undertake staff talks regularly, which has been the catalyst for new areas of cooperation.
Many Omani Military personnel regularly subscribe to courses offered under the ITEC 2 scheme. In addition, other than the Defense Subject Matter Expert Exchange that periodically takes place, the Indian Navy has been deploying mobile training teams in Oman annually to train RNO personnel. India has also established a naval port in Oman.
Since 2008, Oman has supported the Indian Navy’s anti-piracy missions, and Oman regularly welcomes Indian Naval Ships for OverSeas Deployments.
Royal Navy of Oman’s sailing vessel ‘Shabab Oman,’ along with INS Tarangini, participated in the joint sailing voyage from Muscat to Kochi at the end of 2015, tracing the ancient trading routes between India and Oman.
The joint sailing was to commemorate the 60th anniversary of India-Oman diplomatic ties. Indian Air Force and Indian Navy aircraft regularly utilize Omani Airports for refueling and operational turnaround.
Indian Diaspora In Oman
Indian expatriates are 800,749-strong (as of April 2017), and the number of Indian workers, including professionals in Oman, is about 690,163 (as of October 2017). The large, diverse, and highly regarded expatriate Indian community in Oman is spread over the entire spectrum of professions.
Thousands of Indians work as doctors, engineers, chartered accountants, teachers, lecturers, nurses, managers, etc. Many Indian doctors work in Oman in Government hospitals and clinics in the private sector.
There are also some Indian academics in the Sultan Qaboos University’s various departments and faculties. The Indian community in Oman is organized under the Indian social clubs in Muscat, Shalala, Soar, and Sur.
These clubs have several sub-groups called linguistic wings, which cater to their members’ cultural and social needs; for example, the Indian Social Club in Muscat has 25 linguistic wings catering to all social requirements of the Indian community.
19 Indian schools are offering CBSE syllabus catering to the educational needs of about 45,000 Indian children. The Board of Directors is responsible for managing Indian Schools in Oman.
Political Significance Of Sultan’s Visit
The Sultan visited India at the invitation of the President of India. Therefore, a red carpet reception was given with full protocol at Rashtrapati Bhavan. The Sultan met with the Prime Minister and the Minister of External Affairs.
The visit has come at a crucial time in the history of the Middle East. The war between Israel and Hamas has been going on for weeks, and almost all Arab and non-Arab Muslim countries are on the side of Hamas.
Hamas is an aggressor; taking into account the October 7 attack resulting in the killing of about 1400 Israelis, including kids and women, 220 more have been taken as captives by Hamas.
The visit came when India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval was in Tehran, and Pakistani army chief Asif Muneer was visiting Washington DC. Interestingly, General Asif Muneer is accompanied by Pakistan ISI chief Nadeem Anjum, unprecedented in Pakistan’s foreign policy history.
The visit of the two is more surprising when all knowledgeable sources say that the two top Pakistani super bosses are at loggerheads. What has forced the Pakistan army chief to agree to share his Washington visit with the bugbear?
The Sultan is visiting India at a time when the entire Muslim world in general and the Arab countries in particular were angry with India for expressing support to Israel in its war against Hamas.
Pakistan has whipped up the anti-India tirade for New Delhi’s pro-Israel stance, and it goes around denouncing India as a country of idol-worshippers and kafirs, which every Muslim should attack.
In contrast to this propaganda, giving religious color, the Sultan of Oman did not endorse the anti-India stance and decided to pursue normal, friendly relations with India. The Indian bashers among the Arabs have to understand the position of India, whose foreign minister said that while India strongly supported the claim of the Palestinians, it condemns the violence of Hamas against the innocent Israelis.
India has also airlifted aid for the beleaguered Palestinians. Sultan Haitham bin Tarik has given strong proof of his understanding of India’s position.
The visit primarily aims to strengthen multi-faceted Indo-Oman relations further, particularly trade, commerce, and defense cooperation. The Indian Diaspora in Oman is playing the role of a solid bridge between the two nations.