Oasis of peace


John Stevens exposed the absolute folly of violence when he succinctly observed: “An attack is proof that one is out of control.” But we often see individuals, communities and governments going berserk, upsetting the delicate equilibrium of peace. The last decade witnessed an inexorable intensification of violence, and death toll in conflicts trebled.
Considering the unique geo-political and economic significance of the Middle East, any conflicts in the region are bound to have serious ramifications at the international level. However, as noted in a recent IMF report, potential large scale conflicts pose a huge challenge for the region.
Conflicts are nothing new to the Middle East (and North Africa); since the middle of last century, the MENA region has witnessed devastating wars that broke out at depressingly high frequencies. The human toll of these violent episodes has been shocking. As much as 40 per cent of the war-related deaths since the end of World War II, and 60 per cent of war casualties since the turn of the millennium have occurred in the region. The region is also struggling to cope with the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.
As agents of violence carry on their mission with frenzy, the world turns to messengers of peace for redemption. Oman is one of the few countries in the region that have cherished the values of camaraderie and peace. The world holds the Sultanate in high esteem not just because of its diverse and pristine natural beauty, but because it has remained an oasis of peace and goodwill in an environment marred by violence, hatred and fear.
Oman offers a stark contrast to the neighbouring Yemen — which reported one of the highest number of deaths by terrorism globally with a global terrorism index (GTI, published by the Sydney-based Institute for Economics and Peace) of 7.6, and Saudi Arabia — which produces the second highest number of foreign fighters with a GTI of 4. Oman’s GTI score is 0: indicating zero terrorism impact.
Oman also ranks among the top five in the MENA region — and 70 globally — in the Global Peace Index 2017 released by the same agency, based on an assessment of three major domains: societal safety, ongoing international and domestic conflicts, and degree of militarisation.
Oman’s recent peace mediation in the Yemeni political crisis, bringing the Yemeni government and Ansar Allah to the discussion table over a UN plan was widely appreciated. Oman also played a crucial role in facilitating negotiations between Iran and the United States that led to the much awaited nuclear deal between the two.
When the US wanted to deliver a crucial message of peace to Syria in 2015, Oman was the natural choice to be the messenger. The following year, Oman discussed a political and diplomatic resolution of the region’s current conflicts (with special focus on Syria) with Russia, whose foreign minister arrived in Muscat for the purpose.
These efforts, along with its role in resolving multiple hostage crises and other humanitarian gestures, clearly earned global recognition for Oman as an effective peace-broker in the region. Oman achieved this status by successfully employing the power of soft diplomacy and neutrality-based foreign policy guided by the visionary leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos.
The Sultanate’s underlying philosophy of peace is obvious in the white stripe of its national flag, contrasting the red stripe that stands for the conflicts and disharmony the country underwent in the past. When peace becomes the way of life, what emerges is progress and prosperity, as represented by the green stripe of the flag.
Three sects of Islam — Ibadi, Sunni and Shia — coexist in absolute harmony in the Sultanate, whose ethos is defined by the cultural enrichment of Arab, African, Baluchi and Indian ancestries. The presence of a significant (almost half the total population) multi-national expatriate community has also helped nurture values of tolerance and a broader perspective among its people.