Renaissance


A captivating saga of reforms and amazing transformation in Oman


Photo: Times of Oman

The threatening waves of political disruptions have never assumed seismic proportions in Oman. To say that the Sultanate has remained untouched by what the Western media has termed the Arab Spring would be an understatement. The contagion, in fact, was tamed, captivated and stripped of its thunder in Oman. By 1975, His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said had quelled the desert rebellion and set the nation on the fast track towards development.  

By successfully bringing the erstwhile separatists of the Dhofar region into the national mainstream, His Majesty united the nation in a unique demonstration of a classic counter-insurgency-cum-nation building strategy.  The Sultanate quickly seized the opportunity to push forward some pending reforms, brought in several administrative reforms and created new economic opportunities for the sons and daughters of the soil. In a rare display of astuteness, His Majesty once again showed that even disruptions can offer opportunities for growth and development.

The Renaissance thus propelled Oman towards a new dimension, greater heights and the next level of excellence. The air in the Sultanate was permeated with the fragrance of sweeping changes.

The aspirations and demands of Omanis have always been perceptibly different from those of their regional brethren — both in terms of essence and character. The nation has never aspired to change the regime but has, instead, sought to improve it. It has never sought to radicalise society or the administration, but to purge the country of those things that could potentially steer the nation away from the road to development. 

And this has precisely been the goal of the Renaissance initiated by His Majesty, who has been steadily steering the nation towards a broader liberal system.

Four decades of continued development has not only made Oman prosperous and wealthy, but has also created a new generation of emancipated, proud and empowered Omanis with a global mindset. And this is perhaps the largest contribution of the Renaissance, which has changed the Sultanate from the inside out. The country's emancipated and proud nationals, the children of the Renaissance, are fully content with the adroitness of their monarch. They feel blessed that they are not governed by the types of Hosni Mubarak, Ben Ali and Muammar Gaddafi. A graduate of Britain's Sandhurst Military Academy, the Sultan has imbibed all the traits of true statesmanship that have made him a Renaissance Man.

Oman has taken the world by storm. Four and a half decades ago, when the Sultanate, led by its young and visionary ruler, initiated the blessed Renaissance to take an inward-looking medieval nation to the threshold of the twenty first century, the world could hardly imagine that it could achieve such an onerous task within such a record time. The country needed magic to achieve what it had set out to achieve. And indeed, Oman showed its magic - the magic of determination and vision.

Unarguably, Oman today stands head and shoulders above other Gulf and North African nations in terms of stability, both political as well as economic, peace, availability of all amenities - civic, healthcare, financial and much more. And according to international rankings, among all the countries in the Gulf region, Oman is the best place to live and do business in — an oasis amidst an endless swathe of arid desolation.

One of the cornerstones of the Sultanate's stability is its unique foreign policy. Oman's foreign policy is characterised by the balancing of interests, tolerance to differences and a determined quest for mutual benefits. While its neighbours in the Middle East have been busy pursuing policies driven by ideology and short-term gains, the Sultanate has charted its own course, with the strong belief that peaceful co-existence is critical to its holistic, long-term goals of achieving security and prosperity in Oman.

Oman, a promoter of global security, has successfully played the role of an extremely reliable peace broker in the past. Once again, as the shadows of another war threaten to swallow the Middle East, Oman is set to play a pivotal role in easing the situation. The Sultanate's Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs, Yousuf bin Alawi, in a widely reported interview with Reuters a few days ago, said, "We are doing our best to keep this waterway (Strait of Hormuz) open for the benefit of international trade and the flow of energy to the rest of the world."  Not only Oman, but the entire world heaved a huge sigh of relief at this assurance given by the Sultanate to the world. And given Oman's track record as a broker of international peace, the assurance has, indeed, come as a ray of hope for many and soothed frayed nerves.

In an eloquent testimonial paid to the Sultanate's growing diplomatic strength, CNN has called Oman a rarity in the diplomatic world. And this is so true. In 2010, Oman played a central role in ensuring the release of American hikers Sarah Shourd, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, who had been detained in Iran after allegedly straying across an unmarked stretch of the Iran-Iraq border. Bauer and Fattal were, however, released a year later. Oman has played a key role in resolving several hostage situations in the Middle East. For instance, the Omani government had helped to negotiate the release of three French aid workers held hostage by Al Qaeda militants in Yemen. Following their release, France and its president, Nicolas Sarkozy, expressed their profound gratitude to the Sultanate and its government in recognition and appreciation of its timely intervention.

Despite its small size, there has been a perceptible increase in the Sultanate's influence in the world in the past few decades. This has been due to the country's pragmatic foreign policy, formulated and practiced by undoubtedly the "most worldly and best-informed leader in the Arab world" — His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said. Oman's policy of strict non-alignment and pragmatic relationship management with its neighbours and the world has earned it the entire world's trust and respect. Oman's relevance and importance in the world was underscored when US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met His Majesty in Muscat in October 2011, following the growing tensions between the US and Iran.

The Sultanate's pragmatism and non-alignment policy have always paid it rich dividends and bolstered its international standing as a dependable ally to one and all. Oman displayed a fine display of its pragmatism by maintaining an excellent relationship with both Iran and Iraq during their war in the 1980s, and also backed the United Nations Security Council's calls to end the conflict. In fact, Oman has always maintained good relations with both the East and the West and its relationship with Iran and US, though not excessively cosy, has remained far more than just cordial. Sooner or later, Oman will be expected to act as a peace catalyst in diffusing the current tensions in the Middle East and securing the Strait of Hormuz. With Oman's intervention, the world hopes to put an end to war in the region and any further disruptions in the supply of energy.

To change and to reform has never been a deliberate strategy adopted by the Sultanate, but has been its destiny, shaped by active steps taken since the dawn of the Renaissance. More than anything else, it has been the Renaissance which has defined the Sultanate, given its nationals a unique identity and enabled the country to stand tall in the world.

Like the legendary French leader and president Charles De Gaulle, the vision and dynamism of His Majesty portray a certain idea of Oman's potential. His Majesty has invested all his energy in restoring the Sultanate's past glory, based on the foundations of its legacy to infuse the country with the best of Western and Eastern modern civilisations. Today, Oman epitomises a unique blend of some of the world's finest and most advanced civilisations.

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