Muscat: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived in Muscat today on her first official visit to Oman for talks with the oil-rich Gulf nation’s top leadership and review bilateral political, economic, defence and security issues as well as the regional situation.
This is Ms Swaraj’s third visit to the Gulf region. She had earlier travelled to Bahrain in September and the United Arab Emirates in November last year, indicating the high importance attached by the new government on India’s relations with the strategic region.
During her two-day visit, Ms Swaraj will hold extensive talks tomorrow with her Omani counterpart Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah on bilateral, regional and other issues of mutual interest.
Interestingly, the first foreign minister that Ms Swaraj received was Mr Abdullah, who had visited New Delhi in June last year, soon after the BJP-led government assumed office as an emissary of the Omani leadership.
Ms Swaraj, who arrived here in the evening, was received by Omani foreign ministry officials and India’s Ambassador to Oman J S Mukul.
“The external affairs minister’s visit to Oman will take stock of various political, economic, defence, security and people to people linkages. She is also expected to discuss regional issues in which both India and Oman have an interest,” Indian officials said.
The two Foreign Ministers are likely to discuss Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s possible visit to Oman later this year, official sources said.
India has vital stakes in the security and stability of the Gulf region which hosts around seven million Indians. The Gulf countries are the source of two-third of India’s crude oil requirements and form the largest trading regional block for India accounting for about a quarter of its global trade.
India and Oman have a very robust relationship based on extensive people-to-people contacts and historical economic and cultural exchanges, they said.
There are over seven lakh Indians working in Oman in various sectors. They form the largest expatriate group in Oman. They also repatriate around US$ 3 billion annually.
Oman is an important trading partner of India in the Gulf region with bilateral trade exceeding US$ 5.7 billion in 2013-14.