Oman deal firms up West Asia outreach

Oman deal firms up West Asia outreach

The first visit to India by an Omani ruler in 26 years led to a push by the two countries to finalise a free trade agreement and a joint vision for the future of bilateral relations, especially in areas such as maritime cooperation, connectivity, energy security, fintech and disaster management. Though not as prominent as other members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Oman has been a strategic partner for India in West Asia for decades and an important interlocutor at bodies such as the Arab League and the Indian Ocean Rim Association. Significantly, the Indian side made rapid progress in finalising a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) with Oman after negotiations began only last month. This is sure to give a further fillip to bilateral trade, which has more than doubled to $12.39 billion in the last two fiscal years and boost the prospects for a larger trade deal with the GCC.

PM Modi and Sultan of Oman Haitham Bin Tariq at the Hyderabad House in New Delhi.(PTI)

The visit of Oman’s Sultan Haitham bin Tarik was also an opportunity for the two sides to discuss the Israel-Hamas conflict, which shows no signs of abating even after the death of some 20,000 people. The Indian side highlighted the challenge posed by terrorism and the need for a two-State solution to establish lasting peace in the volatile region.

The visit also reflected India’s continued outreach to West Asia, a major source of energy and funding, and a crucial destination for Indian workers. Oman alone is home to about 700,000 of the nine million Indian expatriates based in the region, and there are close to 3,000 Indian establishments in Oman with investments of around $7.5 billion. New Delhi has a stake in ensuring that the conflict in Gaza doesn’t lead to more tensions in the region.

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