From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Mapping of the Persian Gulf region
Mains level : Significance India-Oman Ties from Chinese threat perspective
India is laying out the red carpet for Oman’s top defence official Mohammed Nasser Al Zaabi, who will be in India for a four-day official visit.
India-Oman Relations: A Backgrounder
- The Sultanate of Oman is a strategic partner of India in the Gulf.
- Both nations are linked by geography, history and culture and enjoy warm and cordial relations.
- An Indian consulate was opened in Muscat in February 1955 which was upgraded to a consulate general in 1960 and later into a full-fledged embassy in 1971.
- The first ambassador of India arrived in Muscat in 1973.
History of the ties
- Oman, for many years, was ruled by Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, who was a friend of India.
- Sultan Qaboos, the longest-reigning leader of the modern Arab world, died in January ‘2020 at the age of 79.
- He was a man who was, as a student, taught by Shankar Dayal Sharma who went on to become the President of India.
- Sultan Qaboos’s father, an alumnus of Ajmer’s Mayo College, sent his son to study in Pune for some time, where he was former President Shankar Dayal Sharma’s student.
- Expatriate community: Oman has over five hundred thousand Indian nationals living there making them the largest expatriate community in Oman. They annually remit $780 million to India.
- Bilateral trade: In 2010, bilateral trade between India and Oman stood at $4.5 billion. India was Oman’s second-largest destination for its non-oil exports and its fourth-largest source for Indian imports.
- Energy: India has been considering the construction of a 1,100-km-long underwater natural gas pipeline from Oman called the South Asia Gas Enterprise (SAGE).
Oman is the first Gulf nation to have formalized defense relations with India.
- Naval cooperation: The Indian Navy has berthing rights in Oman, and has been utilizing Oman’s ports as bases for conducting anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.
- Tri-services base: In February 2018, India announced that it had secured access to the facilities at Duqm for the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy. Duqm had previously served as a port for the INS Mumbai.
- Arms trade: The standard issue rifle of the Royal Army of Oman is India’s INSAS rifle.
- Bilateral exercises: Naseem al-Bahr (Arabic for Sea Breeze) is a bilateral maritime exercise between India and Oman. The exercise was first held in 1993.
Significance of Oman for India
- Oman is India’s closest defense partner in the Gulf region and an important anchor for India’s defense and strategic interests.
- It 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.
- It also provides critical operational support to Indian naval deployments in the Arabian sea for anti-piracy missions.
Duqm port and its strategic imperative
- 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 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.
- In recent years, India had deployed an attack submarine to this port in the western Arabian Sea.
Deterrent in ties: Chinese influence in Oman
- China started cultivating ties with the Arab countries following the former Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan.
- Beijing has cultivated close ties with Oman and the latter was, in fact, the first country to deliver oil to China.
- As of today, 92.99 per cent of Oman’s oil exports go to China, making China Oman’s largest oil importer.
- Oman and China signed an agreement to establish an Oman-China Industrial Park at Duqm in 2016.
- China has identified Oman as a key country in the region and has been enhancing defence ties with it steadily.
- 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.