The Indian Navy will now be able to use the facilities at Duqm port in Oman following the signing of a pact between the two countries, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit, that will give India a foothold in its extended neighbourhood.
The port will act as India’s entry point for wider West Asia and Eastern Africa, a welcome development at a time when China has deployed strategic assets in the Indian Ocean Region, experts said.
India’s interest in Duqm port, which is merely at a 40-minute flight distance from Mumbai, has been necessitated by the fact that the Chinese navy has increased its activities in the western part of the Indian Ocean Region besides setting up a military base in Djibouti.
Among eight agreements that were signed on Sunday during Modi’s visit To Muscat was a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the defence ministries of the two countries on the provision of facilities for the visit of Indian military vessels to Duqm port in terms of services and the use of the dry-dock for maintenance. Another MoU was signed between India’s Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses and Oman’s National Defense College.
An Indo-Omani joint statement issued at the end of Modi’s visit reflected growing maritime cooperation. “The two sides agreed to enhance cooperation to strengthen maritime security in the Gulf and the Indian Ocean regions, vital for the security and prosperity of both countries.”
The two sides in an indirect reference also emphasized upon the need to isolate the sponsors and supporters of terrorism and agreed that the international community should take urgent action against all such entities, which support terrorism and use it as an instrument of policy.
Oman is strategically situated mid-way between India’s western coast and Africa’s eastern coast and has been an old maritime power in the region whose reach stretched from modern-day Pakistan to the eastern part of Africa. India is eyeing partnership with Oman as well as France for its strategic outreach in the western part of the Indian Ocean Region.