India and Oman agreed to identify new avenues and examine areas of mutual interest for joint ventures to enhance the defence industry cooperation between the two countries. Oman is an important partner for India, especially at a time when India is trying to expand its footprint in the Indian Ocean Region. Oman is also the country’s strongest defence partner in the Gulf region.
Oman’s Secretary General at the Ministry of Defence, Mohammed Bin Nasser Bin Ali Al Zaabi is in the country on a four-day visit, and called on Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday. Al Zaabi and Singh, the Defence Ministry said in a statement “discussed ways to enhance defence cooperation between the two countries”. The Omani official is the executive head of the country’s defence establishment, as Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Shihab holds the charge as its minister.
He also briefed Singh about the 11th India–Oman Joint Military Cooperation Committee Meeting (JMCC) on bilateral defence cooperation which was held on January 31, co-chaired by Al Zaabi and Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar.
The JMCC, the Defence Ministry said, is the apex body between the Defence Ministries of India and Oman to comprehensively review and guide all aspects of bilateral defence cooperation.
During the meeting, the two sides “reviewed the progress made in military-to-military engagements, including joint exercises, industry cooperation and various ongoing infrastructure projects” and decided to “identify new avenues and examine areas of mutual interest for Joint Venture in order to enhance defence industry cooperation”. They also discussed conduct of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief exercise “involving the three services and enhancing the scope and complexities of the existing joint exercises,” the statement mentioned, and added that both the countries “agreed to work together to combat the issue of drug trafficking prevalent in the North Arabian Sea.”
It was also agreed that the next JMCC will be held in Oman at dates convenient for both sides. The JMCC is meant to meet every year, but because of the pandemic and other factors, it had a three-year break after the last meeting in 2018 in Oman.
Al Zaabi also met the chiefs of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, and leaders of India’s defence industry. He will visit Cochin Shipyard Limited, Military Training Establishments and the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier Vikrant, during his stay.
Defence ties with Oman are significant for India for many reasons. All three services have bilateral exchanges and exercises with Oman’s services, and the country provides operational support to the Indian Navy for anti-piracy missions in the Arabian Sea.
Also, India had got access to the Duqm port in Oman, strengthening India’s capability and maritime strategy in the Indian Ocean Region, especially against China’s aggressive advance in the region.