IN A strategic move to expand its footprint in the Indian Ocean region, India has secured access to the key Port of Duqm in Oman for military use and logistical support, top sources have told The Indian Express. This is part of India’s maritime strategy to counter Chinese influence and activities in the region
This was one of the key takeaways of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Oman over the last two days. He met Sultan Qaboos of Oman, and an annexure to the Memorandum of Understanding on Military Cooperation was signed between the two countries.
Sources told The Indian Express that following this pact, the services of Duqm port and dry dock will be available for maintenance of Indian military vessels. The Port of Duqm is situated on the southeastern seaboard of Oman, overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. It is strategically located, in close proximity to the Chabahar port in Iran. With the Assumption Island being developed in Seychelles and Agalega in Mauritius, Duqm fits into India’s proactive maritime security roadmap Recently, Duqm has seen a rise in Indian activities. In September last year, India deployed an attack submarine to the western Arabian Sea. The Shishumar-class submarine entered Duqm along with naval ship INS Mumbai and two P-8I long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft. The Naval units were on a month-long deployment with the aim of enhancing surveillance and cooperation.
Following Modi’s visit to Oman, the joint statement said the two sides noted that the MoU on Military Cooperation, signed in 2005 and renewed in 2016, has provided the general framework to strengthen bilateral defence ties. India and Oman noted that the MoUs on cooperation in maritime security and between Coast Guards of the two countries, signed in May 2016, have provided a firm foundation for deepening institutional interactions. “Both sides expressed satisfaction at the signing of an annexure to the existing MoU on Military Cooperation between the defence ministries,” it said.
In August 2017, Oman signed an MoU with the United Kingdom that allowed the Royal Navy to use the Port of Duqm. The agreement allows UK access to facilities at Duqm, and among the vessels that will be allowed to dock at the port is the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier, the largest ship in the British Navy.
The joint statement said the Indian side thanked Oman for facilitating operational visits by Indian naval ships and aircraft as well as Indian Air Force aircraft to various ports and airports. “Recognising their common responsibility towards promoting regional peace and security, the two sides underlined the importance of further cementing bilateral strategic engagement, especially in the areas of security and defence,” it said.
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