Sushma Swaraj discusses anti-piracy operations with her Omani counterpart

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Muscat, Feb 18: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, on her first official visit to oil-rich Oman, on Wednesday met her counterpart and reviewed bilateral political, economic, defence and security issues as well as the regional situation.

During her two-day visit here, Swaraj held extensive talks with Omani counterpart Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah on bilateral, regional and other issues of mutual interest.

Swaraj holds talks with Oman Govt
"The External Affairs Minister took stock of various political, economic, defence, security and people to people linkages," Indian officials said.

She would also call on Oman's Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Said and meet the Minister of the Royal Office General Sultan bin Mohammed Al Nuamani. 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 stake 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.India also has regular naval, air and army exercises with Oman.

The latest Indo-Omani military exercise was held last month in Oman aimed at raising combat efficiency, development of field skills and exchange of military information.

Anti-piracy operations is a major area of India's interest in the region where Oman is located.

"We are grateful to Oman for the assistance that is being provided to India in those operations," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said. Other areas relate to, exercises between visiting Indian ships and Omani ships.

India is also keen on cooperation with Oman in the cyber security area.

"Cyber is an important area of discussion between the security agencies, or the security establishments in India and Oman," he said.

PTI AKJ NSA

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