India, Oman to step up defence ties

Hindu, Monday the 10th November, 2008

Looking forward:Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin, at Palace Bait Al Barakah in Muscat on Sunday. - -

MUSCAT: India and Oman have agreed to step up defence cooperation by upgrading their joint naval exercises. India also appreciated the Omani gesture of providing berthing facilities for its warship which is patrolling the piracy-hit waters off the shores of Somalia where 18 Indians are currently being held hostage by pirates.

Oman, considered the closest to India among the Gulf Cooperation Countries, is already being offered training cooperation of its officers and men in Indian military training institutions.

The issue of stepping up defence cooperation was discussed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's three-day visit to the Gulf countries. Among top security officials accompanying him are National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan and Defence Secretary Vijay Singh.

After concluding his engagements in Oman, the Prime Minister later left for Qatar where he is expected to sign two agreements in the defence sphere.

Both sides are still discussing the text of the agreements and the likelihood of inking the pacts is high, official sources told The Hindu.

They said the joint naval exercise with Oman, named "Tamar-al-Tahir" (Benign Fruit), would be increased in complexity from next year. The upgraded naval exercises at the mouth of the Straits of Hormuz, through which a large proportion of the world's oil flows, would be renamed "Naseem-al-Bahar" (Sea Breeze).

"The idea is to get on a different level of operations and share the best practices with each other. The move to step up security ties is in keeping with the memorandum on defence cooperation signed in December 2005," said the sources.

Oman and India have been regularly exchanging ship visits and the last ship from the Royal Omani Navy visited India in April last year. Indian warships, on the other hand, have been visiting Oman more frequently, the sources pointed out.

"In the development of relations between our two countries, we have our security and defence. We have reviewed the developments in our region and international and altogether I go back with a great sense of satisfaction that the political leadership of Oman and of India are united in their resolve to cement our relationship into a mighty strategic partnership," noted Dr. Singh.

Oman has also sought assistance from the Indian armed forces to set up credible supply systems for their defence equipment.

In the past, the sources pointed out that the Indian Navy has provided hydrological assistance to Qatar in order to help it develop fishing harbours as well as chalk out plans for off-shore pipelines.

With Qatar, the only Gulf country with which India has a defence cooperation agreement, discussions will centre exchange of data and beefing up defences against the possibility of disruption of sea lanes or sabotage of offshore installations. India recently conducted a small scale naval exercise with Qatar named "Incisive Falcon" for which it dispatched a frontline warship. This is indicative of the increasing convergence of views and the need to work more closely..

MEA Library Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India