India-Oman Relations

2023 DEC 18

Mains   > International relations   >   India and Global Regions   >   India & West Asia

Syllabus: GS 2 > International relations   >   India and Global Powers   >   India & West Asia


  • Recently, Sultan Haitham bin Tariq, Head of State of the Sultanate of Oman, made a state visit to India.
  • The sultan is the first Omani head of state to visit India in 26 years.


  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sultan Haitham bin Tarik adopted a vision document to expand bilateral cooperation in around 10 key areas and pushed for concluding a comprehensive economic partnership agreement (CEPA) as early as possible during their talks to inject new momentum in India-Oman strategic ties.
  • The two leaders also discussed the situation arising out of the Hamas-Israel conflict, the challenge of terrorism as well as the larger need to try and achieve a two-state solution to the Palestine issue as a way forward.
  • The two sides also announced the third tranche of Oman-India joint investment fund worth 300 million USD that would be used for channelising investment into the fastest growing sectors of the Indian economy.


  • The Sultanate of Oman is a strategic partner of India and an important interlocutor at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Arab League, and Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) fora. 
  • India and Oman are linked by geography, history, and culture and enjoy warm and cordial relations. 
  • While people-to-people contact between India and Oman can be traced back 5000 years, diplomatic relations were established in 1955, and the relationship was upgraded to a Strategic Partnership in November 2008.
Description: Oman | History, Map, Flag, Capital, Population, & Facts | Britannica




  • Oman is a crucial pillar of India's West Asia Policy and its oldest regional strategic partner
  • The bilateral ties were transformed into a strategic partnership in 2008.
  • Highlighting this bond, India invited Oman to attend the G20 Summit as a guest during its 2023 presidency.
  • Visits at the highest level have been exchanged frequently between India and Oman.
Agreements and Bilateral Cooperation:
  • India and Oman have signed various MoUs enhancing cooperation in health, tourism, military, space, and legal areas, including notable partnerships between their defense and diplomatic institutes, strengthening their bilateral ties.
  • Oman is India’s closest defence partner in the Gulf region, and defence cooperation has emerged as a key pillar of their strategic partnership. 
  • Oman is the first Gulf country with which all three wings of India’s defence forces hold joint exercises. In August 2022, a 13-day joint military exercise called Al Najah IV was held in Rajasthan. 
  • Both nations also collaborate on maritime security in the Indian Ocean, as highlighted by their inaugural Joint Maritime Committee meeting in February 2022.
Economic & Commercial:
  • India is the 2nd largest market for Oman’s crude oil exports for the year 2022 after China. 
  • India is also the 4th largest market for Oman’s non-oil exports for the year 2022 and 2nd largest source of its import after UAE.
  • The bilateral trade between the two countries touched USD 9.988 billion in 2021-2022, an increase of nearly 90%  from the previous year.
  • India and Oman enjoy deep socio-cultural ties, strengthened by a large Indian community in Oman and mutual cultural interests
  • Yoga is popular in Oman, with significant events organized by the Indian Embassy. Bollywood films, frequently shot in Oman and widely popular there, play a key role in enhancing these cultural connections.
Indian Community in Oman:
  • There are about 673,789 Indians in Oman including 5,68,314 work visa holders and there are some Indian families living in Oman for more than 150-200 years. Among them, 1,797 hold Omani citizenship as of January 2023. 
  • The community, including doctors, engineers, and educators, is served by 21 Indian schools and organized through social clubs. The Hindu community maintains historic temples, and there are churches and gurudwaras, with the Indian Embassy providing strong welfare support.



  • Security Concerns:
    • Security concerns emanating from gulf nations like the transnational terrorist linkages that exist between India and Gulf Arab countries.
  • Regional Geopolitical Dynamics:
    • The complex geopolitical environment of the Middle East, including regional conflicts and alignments, poses challenges.
    • For instance, situation arising out of the Hamas-Israel conflict.
  • Chinese influence:
    • China's growing influence in the Gulf, including Oman, is a challenge for India. 
    • China, as Oman's top oil importer, receiving nearly 93% of its exports, and the establishment of the China-Oman Duqm Industrial Park in 2016, signify deepening economic ties between Beijing and Muscat.
  • Competition from global powers: 
    • Global powers, including the United States, have strong interests in Oman, particularly in strategic areas like the Strait of Hormuz. India needs to navigate these relationships carefully to maintain its influence.
  • Nationalization drives:
    • Gulf countries' workforce nationalization, like Oman's Omanization policy, could adversely affect Indian expatriates' employment opportunities in the region.
  • Religious polarization in domestic politics:
    • Experts have criticized certain incidents in India, like the controversial remarks made about Prophet Muhammad, as indicative of religious polarization in the country's domestic politics. 
    • These kinds of incidents have the potential to negatively impact India's otherwise cordial relations with Gulf countries, including Oman, where such matters are highly sensitive.


  • Enhanced economic ties:
    • Further diversify trade beyond oil and gas. Explore new sectors such as technology, renewable energy, and tourism etc.
  • Strategic and defense collaboration:
    • Deepen defense ties through joint military exercises and intelligence sharing.
    • Collaborate in maritime security, particularly in the Indian Ocean, to combat piracy and ensure safe maritime routes..
  • Regional geopolitical dynamics:
    • Navigating the Middle East's complex geopolitics, including the Israel-Hamas conflict, requires careful diplomacy and a balanced approach to regional issues.
  • Addressing sensitive issues:
    • Approach sensitive religious and political topics with tact and diplomacy to avoid strains in relations. Promote narratives of tolerance and inclusivity in both countries.
  • Expatriate community engagement:
    • Strengthen the support systems for the expatriate community in Oman, ensuring their rights and integration.
    • Utilize the Indian diaspora in Oman as a bridge for cultural and economic ties.


Q. “Oman has a pivotal role to play in India seeking deeper engagement and collaboration in West Asia”. Discuss. (15 marks, 250 words)