The passing away of HM Sultan Qaboos has not only saddened the citizens and the large expatriate community in Oman depriving them of the blessings of his benevolence that they have blissfully basked under for the past five decades, but it has also come as a great loss of a sane voice and a peace-maker for the world community and the Gulf region, in particular.
He pulled the Sultanate from the state of oblivion to the development, economic progress and modernity, keeping pace with the transformation since undergone by other countries in the region. The nation and generations to come will ever remain grateful to this visionary leader for this renaissance.
Having been a part of the diplomatic community in Oman during 2012 to 2014, representing India, I feel privileged for being able to witness and study the process of this transformation and the strides ahead. I was impressed by his remaining touch with the common people living in remote villages as he would periodically set up camps in wilayas across the Sultanate and listen to their problems and give solutions. He stressed on people’s representation in decision making by introducing municipal elections.
Hosting a large Indian Community, Oman has a special place for India as the two nations are linked by geography, history and culture and have for centuries enjoyed maritime trade links and warm people-to-people contacts, which can be traced back to 5,000 years. A book by the title ‘Tareeke-e-Kesari’ is displayed at the National Museum of India which contains biographies of the ancestors of HM Sultan Qaboos and has the only known drawing/portrait of his great-great-grand father, Sultan Turki bin Said. Many may not know that father of HM Sultan Qaboos had studied at the Mayo College, Ajmer in India and had also sent his son to study in India. HM Sultan Qaboos had studied at a private school in Pune and since President of India, SD Sharma had once taught at that institution, as a mark of respect to him as a teacher, HM Sultan Qaboos made an exception by going to the Muscat airport to receive him when he visited Oman during 1996.
India and Oman have frequently exchanged visits at the highest-level. Apart from President Sharma, several Prime Ministers have visited Oman. Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Oman recently during 2018. HM Sultan Qaboos had visited India during 1997. He was scheduled to revisit India in 2011 but the visit was postponed due to the sudden developments in the region and it could not be firmed up subsequently in absence of mutually convenient dates. I remember vividly the hectic diplomatic engagement on our part during the period of my assignment as the Deputy Ambassador of India in Muscat to facilitate the visit of HM Sultan Qaboos to India, but perhaps the concerns about his failing health were overriding. This also prevented us from presenting him in person at award ceremony in India the Jawaharlal Nehru Prize for International Understanding that was conferred on him during 2004.
Passing away of HM Sultan Qaboos is a great loss to India. India declared a day of national mourning and flags were flown at half-mast on all Government establishments in India and abroad. Indian Minister for Minority Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqwi was sent with message of condolence from the Prime Minister of India to HM Sultan Haitham bin Tarik. The statement issued by India condoled the death of HM Sultan Qaboos by paying the following tributes to him: In his passing away, the world has suffered an irreparable loss of a visionary leader and a statesman who not only led his nation towards remarkable progress and prosperity but also was a beacon of peace for our region and the world. India has maintained close and friendly relations with Oman under the leadership of Sultan Qaboos. He was a true friend and well-wisher of India in guiding and elevating bilateral engagements to the strategic level for the mutual benefit of the people of the two countries.
With the presence of a large Indian Community in Oman there has always been an intense cultural cooperation between India and Oman. I distinctly recall my calling on HM Sultan Haitham bin Tarik in his office on January 21, 2013 as the Minister of Heritage & Culture, while accompanying the Ambassador, when we discussed the roadmap to bolster the cultural cooperation between India and Oman and benefitted from his learned views and valuable insights. He had a lot of grace and spoke very softly. I am sure, he would prove to be a popular Sultan like his illustrious predecessor.
The writer is a diplomat who served Indian Embassy in Muscat.