If you have read about the legendary Sindbad the sailor in the Arabian Nights, the great seafaring adventurer, you can visualise Oman. Sindbad was an Omani from Sohar although he was based out of Basra, Iraq. Among all the Arabs who have been a great seafaring race, Omanis have been the pioneers, especially in the Indian Ocean. The frankincense trade and the glorious historical tradition of Oman demonstrate, Omanis have been the very harbingers of cosmopolitanism, who have been sailing these waters for thousands of years before Vasco da Gama set sail for India from Portugal. The Omanis dominated the slave trade and ran an empire along the Swahili coast in East Africa.
Oman-India trade links are several millennia old
Trade between India and Oman has a history of several millennia. Archaeological excavations in Oman have unearthed evidence to show Indo-Oman trade prospering during the Classical Age dating to circa the third century BCE. Oman has had great links in both trade and culture with Gujarat, Kerala and the Malabar Coast. The Indian Raja Tipu Sultan sent a diplomatic delegation to Oman during his reign.
I first went to Oman in 2004 to launch an English newspaper, a sister publication of the largest Omani Arabic newspaper chain called Al Watan (The Nation, in Arabic). While I worked as the Founding Editor of the Oman Tribune, I was so charmed by Oman’s architectural grandeur, its six spectacular palaces in Muscat, almost 500 forts and castles, spread all over the Sultanate, the second largest country in the Persian Gulf that I decided to stay longer. The composite and cosmopolitan culture that Oman affectionately imposes on its visitors is fairly charming. Oman’s cultural diversity, rich historical legacy, warmth and friendliness beckon you to come again and again
Indians have lived in Oman for centuries
I gradually discovered that Indians have been living in Oman for hundreds of years and Kacchi merchants from Gujarat control most of the rice trade, the hospitality sector, the malls, the jewellery and expensive watches trade and several other sectors in most of the cities including Muscat, Sur, Sohar, Salalah, Nizwa and other cities. So do businessmen from the southern states, especially Kerala. Most Omanis speak Hindi and Malayalam fairly fluently since they have been brought up by blue-collar domestic help largely from Kerala, but also Andhra, Tamil Nadu. Indians lived in Oman long before the 1973 oil price hike. The two Hindu temples of Muscat are over a hundred-year-old.
$ 10 billion bilateral trade
Cut to 2022: Bilateral trade during FY 2020-2021 stood at $ 5.4 billion. Bilateral trade for the year 2021-2022 reached US $ 10 billion, almost doubling in one year despite the corona pandemic. Investment flows, both ways, have been robust, as reflected in numerous joint ventures, established both in India and Oman. There are over 6,000 India-Oman joint ventures in Oman with an estimated investment of over US$ 7.5 billion. Indian companies have emerged as leading investors in Oman, particularly in Sohar and Salalah Free Zones as well as in Muscat. New Indian investments are also coming into the Duqm Special Economic Zone.
Economic cooperation between India and Oman is reviewed via the institutional mechanism of the India-Oman Joint Commission Meeting (JCM). Traditionally, the meeting of the India-Oman Joint Business Council (JBC) also takes place parallel to JCM and serves as a platform for interaction between captains of industry in India and Oman. The 10th Session of the India-Oman Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) was held on 11th May 2022 in New Delhi. It was co-chaired by Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution and Textiles and H.E. Qais bin Mohammed al Yousef, Minister of Commerce, Industry and Investment Promotion of the Sultanate of Oman.
The 10th Session of the Joint Business Council (JBC) was also held on 12th May 2022 in New Delhi with a large participation of business and investor communities from both countries. The JCM allowed reviewing the entire gamut of bilateral economic relations between India and Oman. It was agreed in the JCM to enhance collaboration across a range of fields with particular emphasis on Trade, Technology, Tourism, food & agriculture, renewable energy including Green Hydrogen and Green Ammonia, health and pharmaceuticals, mining, manufacturing, IT, sports, culture, youth and tourism.
India is Oman’s top trading partner
India is among Oman’s top trading partners. 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 after UAE, the US and Saudi Arabia and 2nd largest source of its import after UAE.
Consider some key economic data to fathom the economic links between the two countries. India’s exports to Oman in 2021-2022 stood at US $ 3.2 billion. Oman is India’s 34th largest export market for 2021-2022. India’s imports from Oman in 2021-2022 were estimated at US $ 6.8 billion. Oman is India’s 24th largest import source in 2021-2022. Oman is India’s 31st largest trading partner in 2021-2022 with total trade of US $ 10 billion according to Indian Embassy sources.
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 after UAE. In short, from Indus Valley Civilisation until today the friendship between Oman and India have consistently strengthened to form the strongest bridge across the Gulf
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