Muscat, Feb 18: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, on her first official visit to oil-rich Oman, today met top Omani leaders who expressed their country's keen interest to boost ties with India.
Swaraj held extensive talks with Oman's Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Said, her counterpart Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah and the Minister of the Royal Office General Sultan bin Mohammed Al Nuamani.
During her meeting with Yousuf, Swaraj discussed bilateral, regional and other issues of mutual interest. The two leaders focused on strategic aspects of relations as maritime neighbours, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.
"The External Affairs Minister took stock of various political, economic, defence, security and people-to-people linkages," Indian officials said. She also called on Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Fahd who said Oman is eager to boost ties with India, Akbaruddin said.
This is Swaraj's third visit to the Gulf region. She had earlier travelled to Bahrain in September and the United Arab Emirates in November last year, indicating the high importance attached by the new government on India's relations with the strategic region, official sources said.
She also discussed regional issues in which both India and Oman have an Interest, Indian officials said. India has vital stakes in the security and stability of the Gulf region which hosts around seven million Indians. The Gulf countries are the source of two-third of India's crude oil requirements and form the largest trading regional block for India accounting for about a quarter of its global trade.
India and Oman have a very robust relationship based on extensive people-to-people contacts and historical economic and cultural exchanges, officials said. There are over seven lakh Indians working in Oman in various sectors. They form the largest expatriate group in Oman.
They also repatriate around USD 3 billion annually. Swaraj yesterday lauded the Indian community in Oman, saying their highly skilled service at a competitive cost has made them indispensable for the nation's economy. Oman is an important trading partner of India in the Gulf region with bilateral trade exceeding USD 5.7 billion in 2013-14.
India's trade with Oman has been growing steadily. It has exceeded more than 125 per cent during the last 5 years. There are more than 1,500 joint ventures between India and Oman. The major ones are the Oman-India fertilizer company in Sur and the Bharat-Oman refineries in Bina in Madhya Pradesh.