HM to receive Modi, visit to boost ties

His Majesty Sultan Qaboos will receive Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who arrives in the Sultanate on Sunday for a two-day visit.
“Oman is a close maritime neighbour with whom we enjoy excellent relations. I will hold talks with His Majesty Sultan Qaboos and other leaders,” Modi tweeted on Saturday, ahead of his visit. “There shall be interactions with businesspersons of Oman on developing stronger economic links with India.”  Modi said he will have an opportunity to meet the large Indian diaspora that has made those countries their home. “The Indian diaspora is a bridge of friendship between India and the Gulf countries.” He will be received by a high-level Omani delegation with a ceremonial reception at the airport followed by his address to the Indian community at Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex in Bausher on Sunday.
The Indian prime minister’s visit comes within the framework of existing strong cooperation between the Sultanate and India. He will be accompanied by a delegation comprising a number of top officials in the Indian government.
The two sides are expected to sign a number of agreements, including in space research and exploration, besides tourism, marine, legal assistance in civil and commercial matters, according to sources.
Modi’s visit is part of a larger exercise to fulfil Indian government’s domestic and international agenda and bring some benefits to the expatriate Indians living in Oman. “Indian Prime Minister’s visit to Oman holds great importance as he is a champion of the welfare of Indian diaspora. All the issues concerning Indians in all walks of life will be discussed and efforts to enhance the bilateral relations will be made,” said Indramani Pandey, Indian Ambassador to Oman. Indians in Oman are estimated to be 689,080 as of November 2017.

According to Oman Ambassador to India, Hamed bin Saif al Rawahi, “Oman is a dynamic partner of the ‘Make in India’ mission of India. The Indian government invited Omani companies to invest in India and capitalise on the new government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative. There are more than 1,500 Indo-Omani joint ventures in Oman itself, valued at $7.5 billion. India has made an investment of $4.5 billion in Oman.”
A statement from Mridul Kumar, Joint Secretary (Gulf) at the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said: “Six GCC countries account for almost 20 per cent of bilateral trade and by far, they are the largest trading regional blocks for us ($110 billion), of which oil accounts for a very small portion. A lot of people might think oil accounts for a major portion, but it does not.”
“They are our key sources of energy. Fifty per cent of our oil comes from these countries. Almost 60-65 per cent of our energy requirements are sourced from Gulf,” said the statement.
According to historians and archaeologists, Oman and India were engaged in trade relations some 5,000 years ago between the Sharqiyah region of Oman and Kutch in the Indian state of Gujarat.
Those bilateral trade relations, purely based on barter system, have led to the strengthening of diplomatic, trade and commercial relations between the two nations, they say.
“Oman is our very important strategic partner. Our prime ministers have been visiting Oman on a regular basis. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos also visited us sometime back. A special dinner is being hosted by His Majesty Sultan Qaboos in honour of the prime minister,” Kumar said.
Modi will also meet His Highness Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmood al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers, and His Highness Sayyid Asaad bin Tareq al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for International Relations and Cooperation Affairs and Personal Representative of His Majesty the Sultan.
Modi plans to meet Omani CEOs with regard to the World Government Summit in the UAE followed by a visit to Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. Later, he will visit the Shiva temple in Muttrah, which is said to be 200 years old, before leaving for India.
Oman and India share excellent cooperation in various areas, including defence. Indian army, navy and air forces conduct periodic exercises.
“It was at the intervention of Omani authorities that we got Father Tom (who was kidnapped by the IS in Yemen) released. We are immensely grateful to this. The Indian community in Oman has full independence to follow its faith and beliefs. At the request from Indian community, the prime minister will be visiting the temple here,” Kumar said.

KABEER YOUSUF & VINOD NAIR