NEW DELHI - India has secured access to the key Port of Duqm in Oman for military use and logistical support, keeping in mind the Gwadar Port and the rising Pakistan China influence in the Indian Ocean.
This was one of the key takeaways of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Oman over the last two days. He met Sultan of Oman Sayyid Qaboos bin Said Al Said and an annexure to the Memorandum of Understanding on Military Cooperation was signed between the two countries.
Sources said following this pact, the services of Duqm port and dry dock will be available for maintenance of Indian military vessels.
The Port of Duqm is situated on the southeastern seaboard of Oman , overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is strategically located, in close proximity to the Chabahar port in Iran. With the Assumption Island being developed in Seychelles and Agalega in Mauritius, Duqm fits into India’s proactive maritime security roadmap.
Recently, Duqm has seen a rise in Indian activities. In September last year, India deployed an attack submarine to this port in the western Arabian Sea. A Shishumar-class submarine entered Duqm along with naval ship INS Mumbai and two P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft.
India gets access to strategic Oman port for military use, reconnaissance aircraft. The naval units were on a month-long deployment with the aim of enhancing surveillance and cooperation. 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. 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.
“Both sides expressed satisfaction at the signing of an annexure to the existing MoU on Military Cooperation between the defence ministries,” it said.
In August 2017, Oman signed an MoU with the United Kingdom that allowed the Royal Navy to use the Port of Duqm. The agreement allows UK access to facilities at Duqm, and among the vessels that will be allowed to dock at the port is the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, the largest ship in the British Navy.
The joint statement said the Indian side thanked Oman for facilitating operational visits by Indian Naval ships and aircraft as well as Indian Air Force aircraft to various ports and airports. “Recognising their common responsibility towards promoting regional peace and security, the two sides underlined the importance of further cementing bilateral strategic engagement, especially in the areas of security and defence,” it said.
It also said that the two sides expressed satisfaction at the ongoing bilateral security collaboration in the fields of counter-terrorism, information-sharing and capacity-building, and the Prime Minister appreciated the support extended by Omani security agencies on “specific issues of security concern to India”. The Port of Duqm also has a special economic zone, where about $1.8 billion investments are being made by some Indian companies.
They agreed to provide further impetus to the robust defence relations, including through regular joint exercises by the three defence forces, training of Navy, Air and Army officials, as also cooperation in the area of coastal defence and through participation in defence exhibitions, the statement said.
The Port of Duqm also has a special economic zone, where about $1.8 billion investments are being made by some Indian companies. The Adani group had signed an MoU with Duqm port authorities last year, but no investments have been made so far. “The Prime Minister expressed his admiration at the ongoing efforts and plans the Sultanate of Oman is making to diversify its economy and welcomed the invitation to Indian companies to invest in various sectors in the special economic zones of Oman , including SEZs in Duqm, Sohar and Salalah.
He offered India’s partnership and cooperation in areas of priority, such as minerals and mining, manufacturing, logistics, infrastructure, tourism, agriculture and fisheries, IT and IT enabled-services, skills development, innovation,” said the joint statement.