Facts About India and Oman: Peacemakers in the Middle East
Because of their friendly relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran, Oman’s “friends-of-all” foreign policy and India’s “strategic autonomy” doctrine are the most qualified to bring about peace in what is arguably the world’s most troubled region.
Ajit Doval, the national security adviser for India, met with Sultan Haitham bin Tarik on June 26 while in Oman and shared a heartfelt greeting from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. General Sultan bin Mohammed Al Nomani, Minister of the Royal Office of Oman, and Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr bin Hamad Al Busaidi were two other people with whom Doval had extensive discussions.
The top Indian bureaucrat also paid a visit to the important Duqm Port during his full-day excursion, where Muscat had granted the Indian Navy access to “facilitate its presence in the Indian Ocean Region”. He also went to the Duqm Special Economic Zone during this time.
Following a three-day meeting between the deputy national security advisors of the two nations in January of this year, this visit took place. Both parties agreed to establish a “collective and coordinated response” to combat the spread of “terrorist propaganda, misuse of new and emerging technologies, trafficking in arms and illicit substances, and abuse of cyberspace” during that meeting.
Before that, both nations conducted a joint military exercise called “Al-Najah” in August 2022. The joint military drill was centered on counterterrorism, regional security, and UN-mandated peacekeeping operations. It should be noted that both countries also host joint naval and aerial exercises called Naseem-al-Bahr and Eastern Bridge, respectively.
In addition, the Indian government awarded His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al Said of Oman the Gandhi Peace Prize for the year 2019 in 2021. India was Oman’s third-largest source of imports in 2019, as well as its third-largest market, for non-oil exports.
At the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Arab League, Oman is a crucial partner for India. Furthermore, Indian interests in the Indian Ocean Rim, a region where the Chinese dragon is spreading its tentacles, are especially important due to the geostrategic importance of Duqm port, which overlooks the Gulf of Oman, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea. India’s access to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden can be facilitated by the port’s location in the northwest of the Indian Ocean. It further improves India’s restricted access because it is situated close to Iran’s Chabahar port.
An important component of the overall ties is the two countries’ defense cooperation. One of India’s most significant Gulf allies and a key player in defending India’s strategic interests in Oman. A framework MoU that governed defense exchanges between Muscat and New Delhi was therefore renewed in 2021. Both nations’ navies signed an MoU the same year to exchange white shipping data. In this context, it is important to note that high-ranking defense officials from both nations have recently made reciprocal visits, further demonstrating the closeness of the bilateral relations.
When considered in the context of the larger system of events operating in the middle east, this quiet but enduring friendship has many different dimensions. The “friend of all” foreign policy of Muscat and India’s “strategic autonomy” doctrine has greater potential to maintain peace in what is arguably the world’s most troubled region.
Remember that Oman has been attempting to resolve the issues between the parties since 2015, even though China claimed responsibility for ending the Saudi-Iran détente in March. In 2021 Baghdad, Oman helped arrange the start of negotiations between these two antagonistic Islamic poles.
Only Oman, a member of the GCC, declined to participate in military operations in Yemen. Additionally, the Arabian peninsula has a “unique balancing potential” for it.
In contrast, India has friendly relations with both Saudi Arabia and Iran, though New Delhi has been understandably more concerned with protecting its realpolitik interests in the area.
The warm ties between India and Saudi Arabia are well-known in economic and strategic spheres. This was recently demonstrated when the Indian Minister of External Affairs appreciated his Saudi counterpart’s assessment of the situation in Sudan before launching Operation Kaveri to evacuate Indian citizens from the country’s insurgency-torn territory. Or, when India and Saudi Arabia conducted their second joint naval exercise in the Persian Gulf between May 21 and 25, demonstrating their close ties.
Regarding India-Iran relations, one should consider the recent trip there by the NSA on May 1, during which he spoke with Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi about “deepening economic, political, and security ties” between the two nations.
It should be noted that Iran joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation as a permanent member this year and that India will serve as the organization’s chair in 2023. While other issues, such as Chabahar, Afghanistan’s security, the International North-South Transport Corridor, the rial-rupee exchange rate in trade between Iran and India, etc., also play a significant role in the bilateral relations.
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With this in mind, India and Oman emerge as two of the most qualified regional players with the ability to promote communication and ensure peace, security, and prosperity in the region spanning from the Arabian Sea to the Red Sea. Even though this topic receives less attention in the media than others, the world can learn a lot from these two countries about how to contribute more broadly to maintaining peace in the world’s troubled waters.