Muscat: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived here on Tuesday on her first official visit to Oman for talks with the oil-rich Gulf nation's top leadership and review bilateral political, economic, defence and security issues as well as the regional situation.
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.
During her two-day visit here, Swaraj will hold extensive talks on Wednesday with her Omani counterpart Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah on bilateral, regional and other issues of mutual interest.
Interestingly, the first foreign minister that Swaraj received was Abdullah, who had visited New Delhi in June last year, soon after the BJP-led government assumed office as an emissary of the Omani leadership.
Swaraj, who arrived here in the evening, was received by Omani foreign ministry officials and India's Ambassador to Oman JS Mukul.
"The External Affairs Minister's visit to Oman will take stock of various political, economic, defence, security and people to people linkages. She is also expected to discuss regional issues in which both India and Oman have an interest," Indian officials said.
The two Foreign Ministers are likely to discuss Prime Minister Narendra Modi's possible visit to Oman later this year, official sources said.
India has vital stakes 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, they 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.
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 percent during the last 5 years. It is estimated during the last financial year to be USD 5.7 billion.
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.
The deputy National Security Advisers of the two countries have an institutional mechanism for exchange of views through a security dialogue.
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.