HE Indramani Pandey, Ambassador of India to the Sultanate of Oman shares his thoughts on India-Oman bilateral relations on the occasion of the 69th Republic Day of India. An OER interview
India-Oman bilateral trade is continuing its upward trend after facing a decline during 2014-15 and 2015-16. During the financial year April 2016-March 2017, the value of bilateral trade increased to $4bn from $3.8bn in 2015-16. During April-October 2017, it has already reached $3.68bn.
Which are the major sectors and opportunity areas for economic cooperation between India and Oman?
There are tremendous opportunities for expanding India-Oman cooperation in various areas ranging from food security to space applications, power (specially renewable energy), development of SMEs and Startups, cyber security, defence, engineering goods, IT and IT enabled services, healthcare and pharmaceuticals, education and training, etc. India is also keen to contribute to the success of Oman’s national programme for economic diversification. The Indian Embassy in Muscat has been encouraging Indian companies to participate in sectors prioritised by the Government of Oman, including logistics, minerals and mining and manufacturing as well as in freezones and special economic zones. India has already been contributing to human resource development of Oman by providing professional training under its ITEC Programme. In fact, India has always been a partner in Oman’s growth story.
The next tranche of Oman India Joint Investment Fund totalling $220 million is being invested now. Can you please share some details of the fund and its likely investments?
After fully investing the first tranche of $100mn, Oman-India Joint Investment Fund (OIJIF) has raised its second tranche and announced the first closure at $220mn, which is being invested. According to OIJIF, tranche II envisages following a similar investment strategy as tranche-I whereby it seeks to achieve long-term capital appreciation and to generate reasonable risk adjusted returns. Fund II will achieve sector diversification by investing across various sectors with the exception of real estate.
Oman and India saw high level bilateral visits in 2017. Can you please share details of these visits and their outcome?
Regular high-level visits and exchanges have been a key feature of the mutually beneficial India-Oman Strategic Partnership, which is anchored in shared interests, mutual understanding and respect for each other’s priorities and concerns. Ministerial level visits during 2017 include the visit of the Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs of Oman to New Delhi in April 2017 and the visit of Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Culture of India to Muscat in December 2017.
Are the strong people-to-people connect between India and Oman an opportunity for areas like tourism and medical tourism?
Yes. Over 5,000 years of trade exchanges and people-to-people contact between India and Oman have made the people of the two maritime neighbours familiar with each other’s markets and culture. India is already a favourite destination for people of Oman for tourism, including medical tourism. While the entire world acknowledges India’s attractiveness as a tourist destination in view of the endless choices of historical monuments, cultural diversity, natural beauty, etc. available in India, the people-to-people connect between the two countries has added a feeling of warmth and comfort for Omani tourists visiting India. Similarly, people of Oman are seeking to avail the world-class medical care and wellness care which is being offered at affordable costs in India, right at the neighbourhood of Oman. Indian Embassy in Muscat has been facilitating their travel to India by processing visas, particularly medical visas, on fast-track. Moreover, Omani travellers can obtain an e-tourist visa or an e-medical visa without having to visit the Embassy or its Consular/Visa centre even once.
What initiatives were taken by the Embassy of India in Oman and Your Excellency to further socio-cultural relations between the two countries and its people?
The historical people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges between India and Oman have been sustained and nurtured by the vibrant Indian community in Oman, which has been promoting Indian culture in Oman. The Indian Embassy in Muscat has been providing support to various community organisations, including Indian Social Clubs in Oman, their various branches and linguistic wings, which are engaged in organising cultural events for the community. The Embassy, in order to present to people of Oman some lesser known facets of India’s rich and diverse culture, organised the first ever ‘Festival of India in Oman’ during November 2016-March 2017, with the support of India’s Ministry of Culture. Also, to mark the celebration of 70 years of India’s Independence, the Embassy has been organising a series of events, including various Indian dance and music performances, painting exhibition, seminars and competitions, during August 2017-August 2018. These cultural events have received enthusiastic response from the people of Oman and Indian community in Oman. The Embassy, with support of Indian community in Oman, has been spreading awareness in Oman about the benefits of doing yoga. The Indian community in Oman has been playing a leading role in celebration of International Day of Yoga, leading to the participation of over 4,000 persons in a commemorative Yoga Session held on June 21, 2017 in Muscat.