On June 26, 2023, the National Security Advisor of India, Ajit Doval, visited Duqm Port in Oman, where Muscat has given strategic access to the Indian Navy. This will enable Indian Navy to facilitate its presence in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).

Ajit Doval also visited the Special Economic Zone at Duqm, located at a distance of 550 square kilometres from Muscat. It is spread over 2000 sq. kilometres.

The local authorities gave a presentation to the NSA regarding various opportunities for investors, including a cent per cent possibility of ownership, exemption from taxes, and promotional prices with preferential grace periods, officials said. Oman also wishes to create strategic oil reserves in a location called Ras Markaz which is located close to the Duqm.

The port of Duqm overlooks the Gulf of Oman, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea. It will play a significant role in India’s Maritime security and strategy, especially in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), where China is expanding its ever-growing footprint. Being located northwest of the Indian Ocean, the port can provide India with access to the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

The Duqm Port is strategically close to the Chabahar Port in Iran, a key Indian asset overseas. India has deployed an attack submarine to this port in the Arabian Sea. A Shishumar class submarine, along with INS Mumbai and two long-range P-8 long-range maritime patrol aircraft, entered the port.

The Arab nation of Oman is India’s oldest strategic partner in West Asia and an important ally at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC), the Arab League and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) fora

The Oman-India defence cooperation has emerged as the key pillar of the Strategic Partnership between the two countries. Oman is India’s most close partner in the Gulf region and an important anchor for India’s defence and strategic interests and needs. Defence Cooperation has emerged as the key pillar of the robust India-Oman strategic partnership. The defence exchanges are guided by a framework MoU that was recently renewed in 2021.

At the port of Duqm, Oman has provided logistical facilities to the Indian Navy, and the two sides signed a critical defence related MOUs (Memorandum of Understanding) in 2021, an official recalled. Oman and India engage in tri-service joint exercises. It is expected to play a critical role in making New Delhi maintain the role of a net security provider in the Western Indian Ocean Region, where China has embarked on a plan to boost its strategic presence.

In 2021, the Indian Navy and the Royal Navy of Oman signed an MoU to exchange white shipping information. The MoU is facilitating information exchange on merchant shipping traffic.

As far as defence relations are concerned, a Joint Military Cooperation Committee (JMCC) is the highest engagement between India and Oman in the field of defence. It is expected to meet annually, but could not be recognised since 2018. Notably, Oman is the only nation in the Gulf Region with which all three exercises of the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force takes place.

The army exercise between the two nations is called Al Najah, while the aerial and naval exercises are Eastern Bridge and Naseem-al-Bahr, respectively.

The bilateral defence training cooperation is very robust as Omani forces regularly subscribe to training forces in India at the professional and high command levels. Oman also actively participates in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).

Over the past few years, the Indian Defence Secretary, Chief of Naval Staff and Chief of Army Staff (COAS) have visited Oman, with reciprocal visits to India by all three Omani Service Commanders and Secretary General of Defence.