India recently signed an agreement with Seychelles to develop ‘military infrastructure’ on one of its strategically located islands – Assumption – in the western Indian Ocean. Talk of this was initiated by Prime Minister Modi when he visited Seychelles, and finally India will be able to build military infrastructure on Assumption. Now, Prime Minister Modi is engaging with Oman to for a similar deal.
The Persian Gulf is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world; Oman lies there. It enjoys a very strategic location. India-Oman ties have grown stronger and if India is able to pull-off a deal to establish a military base in the nation then it’ll have far-reaching implications for India’s global clout. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Oman next week as part of his west Asia tour and the deal is believed to be cemented.
In 2010, bilateral trade between India and Oman stood at $4.5 billion. India was Oman’s second largest destination for its non-oil exports and its fourth largest source for imports.
Oman is also the first Gulf nation to have formalised defence relations with India. Both countries conducted joint military exercises in 2006 and subsequently signed a defence agreement. Naseem al-Bahr is a bilateral maritime exercise between India and Oman. The exercise was first held in 1993.
The Indian Navy has berthing rights in Oman, and has been utilising Oman’s ports as bases for conducting anti-piracy operations. The IAF has also been holding biannual joint exercises with the Royal Air Force of Oman since 2009. In fact, the Royal Army of Oman uses India’s INSAS rifle.
Under Prime Minister Modi, India also undertook a deal to develop military infrastructure on Mauritius’ Agalega island. The development of bases in the Indian Ocean is extremely crucial for India to enhance its geographic advantage. China is expanding its clout and is making greater forays into the Indian Ocean. Keeping this in mind, Prime Minister Modi is carrying out an effective and aggressive foreign policy to counter China despite India having much lesser economic and military resources.