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- Context (PIB): The Head of State of the Sultanate of Oman, His Majesty Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, for the first time in history, was on a state visit to India.
Keynotes from the Visit
- The India-Oman Vision Document was signed reflecting the convergence of India’s Amritkaal vision and Oman’s “Vision 2040”.
- Both countries expressed cooperation in digital connectivity, cyber security, financial crimes, medical tourism and maritime security.
- The third tranche of the Oman-India Investment Fund was announced, a 50:50 collaboration between the State Bank of India and Oman Investment Authority.
- An Oman Desk in Invest India and an India Desk in Invest Oman would be created.
- The establishment of a Hindi chair of the Indian Council of Cultural Relations in Oman was announced.
- The Ministry of Culture announced recreating the stitched ship’s journey from Mandvi, Gujarat, to Muscat in the 2025-26 voyage.
- The possibility of leveraging India’s UPI for a corresponding Omani platform, along with discussions on trade in the Rupee was considered.
- Progress on negotiations on the India-Oman Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was appraised.
India-Oman relations: Convergences
- Historical Ties: Links between the Makran coast of Oman and Meluha of Indus Civilisation establish age-old people-to-people contact.
- Geographical Proximity: Oman is the closest neighbour to India in the Arabian Gulf region.
- Strategic Relations: Diplomatic relations were established in 1955 and upgraded to a strategic partnership in 2008.
- Trade and Investment: Bilateral trade between both countries increased to USD 12.39 billion in 2022-2023 from USD 5.4 billion in 2020-2021.
- Defence Ties: Currently, Oman is the only country in West Asia with which all three services of the Indian Armed Forces conduct regular bilateral exercises.
- Joint military drill “Al-Najah” and naval exercises named “Eastern Bridge” and “Naseem-al-Bahr” are conducted between India and Oman.
- Maritime Security: Operation Sankalp during the Persian Gulf crisis in June 2019 to ensure the safe passage of Indian-flagged ships and MoU on Duqm Port signifies maritime cooperation.
- International groupings: The Sultanate of Oman is an important interlocutor at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Arab League, and Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) for India.
Challenges in India-Oman Relations
- Slow Progress of the Middle East to India Deepwater Pipeline (MEIDP) limits the cooperation potential.
- China factor: With Oman’s biggest oil importer and Belt and Road initiative China poses a challenge.
- Global diplomatic challenges: Allegations of Oman backing the Houthi rebels in Yemen may lead to diplomatic challenges for the India-Oman relations.
- Trade skewed towards oil import: With India targeting a reduction in fossil fuel consumption, oil imports and subsequent trade relations may hamper.
- The proposed India-Middle-East-Europe Connectivity Corridor (IMEEC) infrastructure project would open new avenues for cooperation between the two countries.