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    Indian Navy can now access Port of Duqm

    The Indian Navy will now be able to use the facilities at Duqm port in Oman following the signing of a pact between the two countries, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit, that will give India a foothold in its extended neighbourhood.

    The port will act as India's entry point for wider West Asia and Eastern Africa, a welcome development at a time when China has deployed strategic assets in the Indian Ocean Region, experts said.

    Oman India military cooperation
    India's interest in Duqm port, which is merely at a 40-minute flight distance from Mumbai, has been necessitated by the fact that the Chinese navy has increased its activities in the western part of the Indian Ocean Region besides setting up a military base in Djibouti.

    Among eight agreements that were signed on Sunday during Modi's visit To Muscat was a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the defence ministries of the two countries on the provision of facilities for the vital for the security and prosperity of both countries."

    Oman India military cooperation
    The two sides in an indirect reference also emphasized upon the need to isolate the sponsors and supporters of terrorism and agreed that the international community should take urgent action against all such entities, which support terrorism and use it as an instrument of policy.

    Oman is strategically situated mid-way between India's western coast and Africa's eastern coast and has been an old maritime power in the region whose reach stretched from modern-day Pakistan to the eastern part of Africa. India is eyeing partnership with Oman as well as France for its strategic outreach in the western part of the Indian Ocean Region.

    "Oman is currently developing Duqm port along with a special economic zone as a regional economic hub. India has shown interest to participate in the Duqm port complex. This will give India greater access to West Asia where it has stepped up strategic and economic engagements," Oman's ambassador to India, Hamed Saif Al-Rawahi, had told ET ahead of PM Modi's visit.

    "There are the booming markets of the Indian subcontinent and East Africa that also fall within Duqm's convenient reach. Most of the ports on the west coast of India and east coast of Africa suffer perennial congestion problems, thereby opening up opportunities for Duqm as a transhipment centre catering to these markets," he had said.

    Oman is India's oldest defence partner in West Asia and an ally in its anti-piracy campaign. India had supplied rifles to Oman, which in turn had sent support for India's fleet of Hawk aircraft. During Manohar Parrikar's visit to Muscat as defence minister the two countries had agreed to work together on boosting defence, crime prevention at sea, maritime issues and a flight safety information exchange.

    India is also considering setting up defence production facilities in Oman. The Arab country has given berthing rights to Indian Navy vessels, which have been used for anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. In addition, the Indian Air Force has been holding joint exercises with its counterpart in Oman.

    Situated on the south-eastern seaboard of Oman, overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean, the Duqm port is rapidly transforming maritime landscape in West Asia. According to experts, it has the potential to develop into one of the region's largest ports in the long run. At the heart of its appeal, they said, is its strategic geopolitical location.

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