A New Reality Confronts India in the Middle East

Narendra Modi

Besides its strategic value, the Kingdom of Oman has also established a special economic zone in the Port of Duqm, where Indian companies are making investments worth $1.8 billion. He also prayed at the 125-yearold Shiva temple in Muscat, one of the oldest in the region.

During the auspicious days and festivals, more than 15,000 devotees visit the temple to offer their prayers.

"The two sides acknowledged the common threat posed by terrorism to peace and security and agreed to continue working together bilaterally, regionally and globally to counter this menace", it said.

'Thank you Your Majesty Sultan Qaboos for your exceptional warmth, hospitality and friendship, as also your personal attention to details, that made my visit to Oman one of the most memorable visits I have undertaken anywhere'.

Following Modi's visit to Oman, the joint statement said the two sides noted that the MoU on Military Cooperation, signed in 2005 and renewed in 2016, has provided the general framework to strengthen bilateral defence ties.

The Port of Duqm is situated on the southeastern seaboard of Oman, overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. India and Oman noted that the MoUs on cooperation in maritime security and between Coast Guards of the two countries, signed in May 2016, have provided a firm foundation for deepening institutional interactions. India gets access to strategic Oman port for military use, reconnaissance aircraft. Naval cooperation with Oman has already been gaining momentum with Muscat giving birthing rights to Indian naval vessels to fight piracy in the Gulf of Aden.

Following the meeting between Modi and Sultan Qaboos, eight agreements were signed between India and Oman. India's engagement with West Asia should now focus on delivering on its commitments and strengthening its presence as an economic and security partner. This will be crucial as traditional powers like the United States and Russian Federation are busy in militarily jostling with each other even as US stakes in the region are declining by the day.

As per a report in Indian Express, India is extending its footprints in the Indian Ocean as part of countering the Chinese expansionist intentions in the region. India is still stuck in the age-old debates of the Israel-Arab rivalry, whereas the Middle East has moved on. In the end, Modi's visit underlined this new reality for India.

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