Interview with H.E. Mr Hamed Saif Al-Rawahi, Ambassador of The Sultanate of Oman To India

“Mission and vision for Oman and India are set to go on the next level”

India and Oman share a strong and ages old trade relationship, how do you see the current scenario?

Oman and India have enjoyed centuries of quality relations. Oman is often seen as part of the Middle East but it is vital part of the Indian Ocean region as well. We have major Indian Ocean ports such as Salalah and Duqm which are becoming the hub of trade between the two countries.

The friendly people of India and Oman have traded with one another for many centuries, and our cultures and societies have incorporated aspects of each other in all kinds of interesting ways. We are both interested in the potential of regional trade and economic associations as an excellent way of moving forward our economic development in the context of globalization.

The bilateral trade between Oman – India is growing faster than ever before. It reached a figure of US$ 6703.76 million in 2017-18.

Many high-level visits have taken place on either side in the recent period, further strengthening relations. Please let us know about such visits?

In order to strengthen the ties between the friendly countries of Oman and India, bilateral consultations and joint commissions have been initiated by both countries. The annual India – Oman Strategic Consultative Group (IOSCG) Meetings were started at the Secretary Level in 2003. The 10th IOSCG Meeting was held in December, 2014 at New Delhi.

India – Oman Joint Commissions have taken place till date. The latest joint commission was held in Mauscat in July, 2018. There has been regular exchange of visits by Defence Ministers of both sides, Defence Secretary, CNS and COAS to Oman with reciprocal visits to India by all three Omani Service Commanders, Secretary General of Defence. The Ministers of Defence of both countries review their relations annually under the aegis of Joint Military Cooperation Committee meeting.

What kind of cultural exchanges are taking place between the two nations? What are the major tourism opportunities in Oman?

Indians constitute the largest expatriate community in Oman. More than nine million Indians work and live in the Gulf region. Thousands of Omani nationals visit India for the purpose of educations and Medical tourism and on the other hand many Indian nationals visit and settle in Oman for seeking employment opportunities. Tourism in Oman has experienced a complete transformation under His Majesty’s vision and has now come to offer state of the art facilities & amenities. The Sultanate is ramping up various 4 & 5 star hotels in order to cater to the tourist. All major Airlines are operating & routing their carriers via Oman which make Oman a preferred Tourist destination.

In the year 2017, we had approximately 32, 1000 tourists who visited The Sultanate of Oman and this figure is likely to touch a million in this year.

What is the presence of Indian businesses in Oman?

Major Indian companies such as Reliance and a consortium of Gail, HPCL, BPCL and Videocon have won the right to explore oil blocks in Oman. Many other Indian companies are working Oman in the IT sector, hotel business, Mining, educations as well as in the hospital sector.

Oman- India fertilizer company (OMIFCO), is India’s largest joint venture abroad that started in the year 2002 and is worth US$969Million. Bharat Oman Refineries Limited (BORL) along with for mega joint ventures of Larsen and Toubro are classic examples of development via joint ventures.

Indian Financial Institutions have presence in Oman since several decades.The Bank of Baroda, The State Bank of India, The New India Assurance Company, LIC, ICICI Bank as well as The HDFC Bank have their respective offices present in Oman.

Bilateral trade between the two countries has grown tremendously over the years. Kindly elaborate?

Oman and India have created some path breaking and unique business associations in the field of refineries, software, pharmaceuticals and constructions. The refineries at Bina and the fertilizer plant at Sohar are shining examples of our collective efforts for the development of both the countries.

The Oman Container Lines cargo shipping company launched a direct cargo ‘India Express’ shipping service between Nhava Sheva Port in India and the Salah Port in Oman. The Duqm Special Economic Zone which is located at the shortest distance from the Mumbai will prove to be a boon for both the countries.

There is great deal of potential in our relationship and both sides are very keen to realize that potential. We see the role of our long term strategic partnership in building a business friendly environment.

What are the major items of exports from Oman to India and vice-versa? 

The major commodities that are imported from Oman to India are as follows: mineral fuels, distillation products, iron and steel, organic chemicals, fertilizers, aluminum and articles thereof, salt, Sulphur, earth, stone, plaster, lime, cement, ores, slag and ash, asbestos, mica, inorganic chemicals, precious metal compound, isotopes, plastics and articles thereof etc.

The major commodities that are imported from India to Oman are as follows: mineral fuels, oils, distillation products, ships, boats and other floating structures, cereals, iron and steel and articles thereof, machinery, nuclear reactors, boilers, electrical electronic equipment, meat and edible meat offal, plastics and articles thereof, residues, waste of food industry, animal fodder etc.

What are the major investment opportunities for Indians in Oman?

Oman offers unmatched incentives to the Indian investors, who aim at guaranteeing the long term objectives that sever the interest of the investor community as well as the country and is people. For example, Oman encourages Indian investors to setup manufacturing facilities in Oman so that the finished goods may be exported to USA under the aegis of the Free Trade Agreement that exists between Oman and USA.

Food Processing & warehousing, renewable energy and production of wind & solar power parts, cement, apparel, garment industry, steel and other metals’ smelting and production, skill development, IT & ICT processes including hardware and software development are some of the major fields providing investment opportunities to Indians in Oman.

What is your mission and vision to taking relations between India and Oman to the next level?

Mission and vision for Oman and India are set to go on the next level. Major areas of bilateral cooperation will generally remain the same as we see today. At the same time engagement in the defense, hydrocarbon sector, maritime security, anti-terrorist operations, edible and other commodities, health and software are likely to be on an upward trajectory. The construction sector is also likely to be an area of focus with the oil prices sustaining at the current level.

Oman is the first gulf nation to have formalized defense relations with India, how are things going and what else is in the pipeline?The Military relations between the two countries are stronger than ever both country conduct regular biennial bilateral excises between all three services. Since 2008, Oman has been extending its support to Indian navy’s anti-piracy missions and Indian Navel Ships are regularly welcomed by Oman for Overseas deployments. The Royal Navy of Oman’s sailing vessel ‘Shabab Oman’ along with INS TARANGINI participated in the joint sailing voyage from Muscat to Kochi in November 2015 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of India- Oman diplomatic ties.

An MoU on military cooperation was also signed between Oman and India during the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Oman in February 2018. Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy was also granted access to the military and logistical facilities at Duqm in order to expand its military footprint in the India Ocean.

How do you see Prime Minister’s Narender Modi’s much awaited visit to Oman and what after effects are expected after this meet?Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Oman in the month of February 2018 was a historic visit which has tremendously helped in strengthening the friendly relations between the two countries. Following the bilateral discussions, India and Oman signed eight MOUs, related to defence, health and tourism. PM Modi also addressed nearly 20,000 Indian expatriates in Oman who gathered to hear him at the Sultan Qaboos Stadium in Muscat.

Oman is an active partner in the “Make in India” mission and many Omani and Indian companies are exploring avenues in this flagship project of the government of India. “Made for India” is also an initiative wherein both Indian and Omani companies shall manufacture goods in Oman for serving the Indian markets.

Such initiatives are on as rise post the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Oman and the interaction between the two countries is steadily growing.

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