Muscat: Highlighting the fact that ties between Oman and India are reaching new heights, J.S. Mukul, Indian ambassador to Oman, noted that during 2012, the embassy issued over 50,000 visas, which reflects the robust tourism flow. He made these remarks at the evening reception held to celebrate the 64th Indian Republic Day on Saturday.
"We have recently agreed to increase direct flights from 150 to 208 per week, each way, between the two countries," he added. Stressing that India accords high priority to deepening and diversifying its flourishing bilateral economic ties with Oman, the ambassador said, "Bilateral trade is vibrant, having reached around $5 billion. Investment flows remain buoyant.
The India–Oman Joint Investment Fund has started disbursements. On the investment front, there are more than 1,500 joint ventures, including some mega projects such as the Oman-India Fertilizer Company (OMIFCO) in Sur, Bharat Oman Refinery Limited (BORL) in India, the Jindal Shadeed Iron and Steel plant at Sohar, and L&T's joint ventures in Oman. These are examples of major investments with a long-term strategic dimension."
He added: "Defence cooperation is progressing satisfactorily with joint exercises, training courses, cooperation in anti-piracy operations, and the highlight of last year was the visit of our aircraft carrier INS Viraat to Muscat."
Sheikh Saad Mohammed Said Al Mardhoof Al Saa'di, Minister of Sports; Ahmed bin Yousuf Al Harthi, Under Secretary for Diplomatic Affairs; His Highness Sayyid Mohammed Salem Ali Al Said, Chief of Protocol; Sheikh Ahmed Salem Al Shanfari, Chief of Central Asia Department; Dr. Adil Salem Al Shanfari, Deputy Chief of Western Asia Department; Brigadier Abdullah Mohammed Saif Al Hosni, Commander of Royal Oman Police, Buraimi Governorate; Commodore Mahfoudh Hamoud Mohammed Al Wahaibi, Director of Operations and Planning, Royal Navy of Oman; and Counsellor Mabrook Mubarak Al Hinai, Deputy Chief of Cultural Cooperation Department were special guests at the event.
J.S. Mukul expressed confidence that in the years to come, the special relationship between India and Oman would attain qualitative new heights in diverse fields, flowering into an even more comprehensive partnership.
Noting that he has been very touched by the graciousness and cooperation of the Omani authorities, the ambassador said, "During my year-plus stay in Oman, I have been particularly struck by the friendliness and affection that Omanis have for India. To a very significant extent, this is because of the contributions made by the Indian community towards the overall growth and development of this country.
"All Omanis, from high dignitaries to the common people, have unreservedly recognised the positive and constructive contribution of the Indian community. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the presence of more than 700,000 Indians in Oman has ensured excellent people-to-people contacts and has fostered interaction in the cultural field."