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AK Antony to visit Oman next week

Defence Minister A.K. Antony is visiting Oman next week to boost the "vibrant military" ties between the two strategic partners, an official said Friday.

New Delhi: Defence Minister A.K. Antony is visiting Oman next week to boost the "vibrant military" ties between the two strategic partners, an official said Friday.

"Antony leaves New Delhi Monday on a two-day official visit to Oman," a defence ministry spokesman said.
This is the first high-level Indian delegation to visit Oman after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s 2008 trip.

"India and Oman have a vibrant military cooperation," the spokesman said, adding after the signing of a protocol agreement on military relations in 1972, the last decade has seen "an increase" of military relations between the two nations".

In October last year, Jaguar fighter jets of the Indian Air Force flew to Oman to participate in the first joint aerial exercise with the Royal Air Force of Oman.
In Muscat, the minister will hold wide-ranging talks with his Omani counterpart Sayyid Badr bin Saud bin Harib Al Busaidi to promote military cooperation between the two countries, the spokesman said.

Antony will be accompanied by a high-level delegation, including Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar.

The minister will also hold talks with the top leadership of Oman and meet the Indian community members working there. Over 500,000 Indians, the largest expatriate community in Oman, are involved in a wide spectrum of professions in the Gulf country.

Coming from all parts of India, they include skilled workers and technicians and professionals such as doctors, engineers, bankers, finance experts and senior management officers in the private sector.

Antony`s Oman trip comes after he twice chose not to visit Israel despite repeated invitations. The minister also avoided a trip to Iran - given that Israel and Iran share bitter ties. Tehran has severed all diplomatic and commercial ties with Tel Aviv.

Israel is India`s second-largest supplier of military hardware after Russia, though the defence ties between the two countries are largely kept under wraps. India`s Left parties have been severely critical of New Delhi`s strategic ties with Israel.

India and Iran also shared strong military relations till 2005. But the ties witnessed a steady downslide after New Delhi twice voted against Tehran at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Sources said that in an attempted balancing act, Defence Secretary Pradeep Kumar will head a delegation that will be travelling to Iran and Israel later this month.


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