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India, Oman in talks for comprehensive economic partnership agreement

Published: 21st Dec, 2023

Context

Recently, Sultan Haitham bin Tarik, head of Oman, is on his first visit to India.

About

  • Talks at the Hyderabad House covered discussions on the Israel-Palestine situation, reflecting India's close monitoring of the Gaza conflict.
  • Agreements and Initiatives:
    • Five documents were signed, including an anti-money laundering agreement between India's Financial Intelligence Unit and Oman's National Centre for Financial Information.
    • A proposal to recreate a maritime voyage from Mandvi, Gujarat, to Muscat in 2025-26 was embraced as a celebration of the historical ties between the two nations.

Key Highlights of the statement signed:

  • The Prime Minister of India and Sultan Haitham bin Tarik strongly condemned terrorism, emphasizing their commitment to combat it in all forms.
  • The Joint Statement highlighted the importance of universal values like peace, moderation, coexistence, and tolerance.
  • Vision Document: The leaders endorsed a vision document titled 'A Joint Partnership for the Future,' focusing on sectors such as digital connectivity, medical tourism, maritime security, hospitality, agriculture, and food security.
  • Economic Collaboration: Appreciation was expressed for the third tranche of the Oman-India Joint Investment Fund, seen as a catalyst for investments from Oman and the Gulf region into India's rapidly growing sectors.
  • Maritime Security Monitoring: India is closely monitoring the maritime situation near Oman and Yemen, particularly due to heightened threats to commercial shipping vessels arising.

India-Oman Relations:

  • 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.
    • 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) fora.
    • 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.
  • Defense Relations:
  • Joint Military Cooperation Committee (JMCC):
    • 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.
  • 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.
    • India is the 2nd largest market for Oman’s crude oil exports for the year 2022 after China.
    • India is also the 4th largest market for Oman’s non-oil exports for the year 2022 after UAE, US and Saudi Arabia and 2nd largest source of its import after UAE.
    • 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.

Significance of Oman for India:

  • Geographical: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.
  • Geopolitical Cooperation: Oman also actively participates in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).

Key Facts:

  • Border Countries:
    • United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the northwest.
    • Saudi Arabia to the west and southwest.
    • Yemen to the southwest.
  • Deserts: The largest desert in Oman is the Rub' al Khali or the "Empty Quarter," one of the largest continuous sand deserts in the world.

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