1. India Oman Relations
Background: The two countries across the Arabian Sea are linked by geography, history and culture and enjoy warm and cordial relations, which are attributed to historical maritime trade linkages.
Strategic partnership was established in 2008 and Oman has been a key pillar of India’s West Asia Policy.
Areas of cooperation:
- The Sultanate of Oman is a strategic partner of India in the Gulf and an important interlocutor at the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Arab League and Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) fora.
- Al Zaabi the top defence official of Oman, is on a visit to India.
- Oman is the only gulf country with which India conducts exercises in all 3 services:
- Army exercise: Al Najah
- Air Force exercise: Eastern Bridge
- Naval Exercise: Naseem Al Bahr
- Oman has been extending its support to Indian Navy’s anti-piracy missions.
- For Oman, India was the 3rd largest (after UAE and China) source for its imports and 3rd largest market (after UAE and Saudi Arabia) for its non-oil exports in 2018.
- Major items of India’s exports to Oman include mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation; boilers, machinery and mechanical appliances etc.
- Main items of India’s imports from Oman include fertilizers; mineral fuels, mineral oils and products of their distillation; bituminous substances etc.
- Oman has allowed India, including its navy, access to its Duqm port, about 550 km south of the capital Muscat. The Port of Duqm SEZ is earmarked to be the Indian Ocean’s largest deep-sea port.
- An agreement to develop Little India, an integrated tourism complex project in Duqm, has been signed between the two countries.
- The large, diverse and highly regarded expatriate Indian community in Oman is spread over the entire spectrum of professions.
- The vibrant Indian expatriate community in Oman regularly hosts cultural performances.
- The rapidly growing energy demand has contributed to the need for long term energy partnerships with countries like Oman.
- India needs to engage with Oman and take initiatives to utilise opportunities arising out of the Duqm Port industrial city.
India has broken its silence on the crisis arising out of Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s border.
What is the history of conflict between Ukraine and Russia?
- Annexation of Crimea – Ukraine was one of the republics within the USSR during the cold war days, and has remained a strong ally of Russia till 2013.
- While it was planning to sign an association agreement with the European Union in 2013, Russia sternly objected to it leading to tensions.
- Russia subsequently annexed “Crimea”.
Minsk I: Ukraine and the Russian-backed separatists agreed a 12-point ceasefire deal in the capital of Belarus in September 2014.
Its provisions included prisoner exchanges, deliveries of humanitarian aid and the withdrawal of heavy weapons.
The agreement quickly broke down, with violations by both sides.
Minsk II: In 2015, an open conflict was averted after the ‘Minsk II’ peace agreement was signed, under the mediation of France and Germany.
- After Crimea’s annexation in 2014, Russia gained control over both sides of the Kerch strait.
- In 2018, Russian opened a 12-mile-long bridge over the Kerch Strait, which became the physical gateway to the Sea of Azov.
- The Ukrainian vessels’ attempt to travel from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov was denied by the Russian coast guard which led to naval skirmishes.
- Russia has been criticised for its involvement in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in eastern Ukraine. There, Russian-backed separatists have been fighting with Ukrainian troops.
- Russia had certain demands which were not accepted by the US and the west:
- Russia wanted a guarantee from the west to stop further eastward expansion of NATO and removal of NATO troops from Poland and Baltic states- Russia sees this as a threat.
- A withdrawal of nuclear weapons of US from Europe.
- Ukraine should not be allowed to join NATO- although not a member now, Ukraine was assured in 2008 that it would be allowed to join NATO eventually.
- Ukraine has come politically closer to the west. It has conducted joint military exercises with NATO and has been delivered US weapons.
- Russia feels that NATO may use Ukraine as a launchpad for missiles targeted at Russia.
Historical connections between Russia and Ukraine:
- Kyiv was the capital of ancient RUS since 9th century.
- From 16554, they were united by an agreement under the tsar.
- After collapse of tsar regime, Ukrainians declared independence from 1918 to 1920, after which they were controlled by Bolsheviks.
- The Bolsheviks were forced to recognise Ukraine as a separate nation due to revolts and grant it a pro forma independence.
- The Ukranian referendum in 1991, in which 90% people voted to opt out of USSR led to the end of cold war.
- Russia could not bear the burden of its union without Ukraine, its 2nd largest economy.
- India has called for a peaceful resolution of the situation through sustained diplomatic efforts for long term peace and stability.
- Russia will need allies in case of war. Presently, China is considered its big ally, specially after sanctions.
- China is also supporting that Ukraine should not become a member of NATO.
- In such a situation, if there is a ban on Russia from the western countries and US, then China can compensate for it.
- This will further increase the closeness of China and Russia, which can have a bad effect on the friendship of India and Russia.
- About 60% of India’s military supplies come from Russia, and this is a very important aspect.
- India and Russia have signed several important defence agreements, including the S400 missile system and AK-203 assault rifle.
- India and China are already face to face in eastern Ladakh. In this situation, India cannot take any risk to spoil relations with Russia.
- Russia is also key to India’s engagement in Afghanistan after capture by Taliban.
- US and Europe are both important partners of India and US has often provided support to counter China.
- There is an Indian community in Ukraine too who are now being called back.
In such a situation, India can neither bargain with Russia nor with America. Therefore, this situation is no less critical for India.