NEW DELHI: After South Asia, India is looking towards West Asia, with Oman Foreign Minister Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah becoming the first foreign dignitary to visit New Delhi after the new Narendra Modi-led government took office.
Among the Gulf countries, India is said to have the closest ties with Oman. The Sultan of Oman was considered as the chief guest for India’s Republic day celebrations.
But, the schedule did not work out. Oman’s role has been critical in brokering the thaw between the US and Iran, which has led to the possibility of finding a solution to the vexed nuclear issue.
The Omani leader’s presence here on Tuesday will also mark External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s first bilateral-level talks, after she assumed Modi’s office.
She had earlier been part of the bilateral talks Prime Minister Modi had with visiting leaders from South Asia and Mauritius, who had been invited for swearing-in ceremony.
Sources claim that India and Oman are expected to resume talks on the possibility of a deepsea pipeline, which was also discussed during the Omani Foreign Minister’s visit in February, which had coincided with a trip by Iranian Foreign Minister Javed Zarif to New Delhi.
India took advantage of this opportunity to talk to both of them separately about the deepsea pipeline concept to transport gas from Iran to Oman, and then to India, reviving a 20-year-old proposal.
India wants to take a relook, as the technology had advanced to make laying of such a deepsea pipeline plausible, especially after a similar one in North Sea.
Demonstrating the close ties, Oman is the only GCC country with which India has a defence cooperation agreement.
Both countries have institutionalised naval exercise ‘Sea Breeze & Naseem-Al-Bahr’ and air exercise ‘Eastern Bridge & Al Jisr Al Sharqi’. Besides, Oman and India are also cooperating in anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.