NEW DELHI : Maritime security and enhancing cooperation in a range of areas from trade to energy are expected to top the agenda during Omani Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr Al Busaidi’s two-day visit to India beginning on Wednesday.
Oman is among India’s closest partners in West Asia, and it is the only country in the Gulf region with which all three wings of India’s defence forces hold joint exercises
This will be Badr’s first visit to India since his appointment as foreign minister in 2020 and it will come close on the heels of high-level defence engagements between the two countries last month.
A bilateral air force exercise, “Eastern Bridge VI”, was held at Jodhpur during February 21-25 and the executive head of Oman’s defence ministry, Mohammed Al-Zaabi, made his maiden visit to India during January 30-February 4 to chair a meeting of the joint military cooperation committee. Oman’s navy chief, Rear Admiral Saif bin Nasser Al Rahbi, too visited India in February.
Oman, with its strategic location straddling the Strait of Hormuz in the north and Bab al-Mandab Strait in the south, plays a key role in regional maritime security. Cooperation in maritime security is expected to be discussed during the visit, people familiar with the matter said.
Oman also provides logistics support to Indian ships and aircraft deployed in the region on anti-piracy and maritime security missions.
The visit will also be an important opportunity to exchange views on important regional matters of interest to India, and to signal New Delhi’s strong intent to deepen cooperation in all areas of mutual interest, the people said.
Badr and his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar will meet on Wednesday evening for a comprehensive review of the bilateral strategic partnership. They will also exchange views on recent regional and international developments.
Badr is also expected to meet National Security Adviser Ajit Doval on March 24.
India and Oman continued close cooperation during the Covid-19 pandemic. India is among Oman’s top trading partners and two-way trade was worth almost $7.5 billion during 2021-22. People-to-people ties are another key facet of bilateral relations as Oman is home to about 620,000 Indian nationals.
If the oil and gas sector is excluded, India is the largest investor in Oman, with more than 4,100 Indian enterprises with estimated investments of $7.5 billion.
The visit is also significant because the last trip to India by an Omani foreign minister was in April 2017. Jaishankar last travelled to Oman in December 2019 and he and Badr have met on the margins of several international meetings. They met Badr twice last year – in Tehran in August 2021 on the sidelines of the oath-taking ceremony of the Iranian president and in the United Arab Emirate last December on the margins of the Indian Ocean Conference.