India and Oman have had strong civilisation-al ties and strengthening this relationship could lead to more fruitful economic, cultural, and strategic relations. The relations between the two countries have been cordial and with little effort, the handshakes could turn into embraces.
There are lessons in the mistakes of the past. Back in the 1950s, the Sultan of Oman had offered Gwadar Port as a gift to India. But India refused to accept it and with the help of Prince Agha Khan, it went into the hands of Pakistan and is now being used by China.
While Pakistan is not a major contender in the region, China of late has developed economic clout in the region. And it is known to have been converting its economic strength for getting an edge in realising its military ambitions. China has even started developing defence ties with the region. There were reports of it helping Saudi Arabia in building missile facilities. A few weeks ago, the US redflagged China for trying to control a port in the region.
China's growing economic presence is likely to pull it into wider engagement with the region in what could impact several countries in the world. Though at the moment it is not challenging the US-led security architecture in the region.
Great civilisation ties with Oman make it a time tested friend for India. A multi-pronged approach to solidify economic, cultural, and military ties with the country could be desirable. Oman is a trusted friend which can help India achieve its long-term objectives.
Dr. Waiel Awwad, a senior journalist from West Asia, says, “India as a growing world power must have influence and dominance in the region. Ties with Oman are very important not only in trade and access to the Red Sea but also in anti-piracy operations and oil security. Military cooperation with Oman could give an upper edge to India in future.” Indian diplomats though believe New Delhi cannot rely on Oman for hydrocarbons.
However, Oman's proximity to the Strait of Hormuz makes it strategically important for economic and military security. A third of the world's liquified natural gas and almost 25 of the total global oil consumption passes through the strait, making it a highly important strategic location for international trade.
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