//India, Oman set up defence panel

India, Oman set up defence panel

Web posted at: 3/13/2006 1:15:50  Source ::: IANS

Dubai: India and Oman have established a military cooperation committee to boost defence ties and contacts between the armed forces of the two countries in areas such as joint exercises.

The decision to set up the panel was made during talks in Muscat on Saturday between visiting Indian Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Sayyid Badr bin Saud al Busaidy, Oman’s minister for defence affairs.

Mukherjee, who arrived in the Omani capital Friday, has said the strong bilateral cooperation in economic and commercial sectors should be replicated in the defence field.

The establishment of the committee comes within the framework of a memorandum of understanding signed by the two countries in December last year. The panel will be headed by the defence secretaries of the two sides and will hold its first meeting soon.

On Sunday, Mukherjee visited the Wudham Naval Base and went aboard a missile frigate. He was received at the base by chief of the Royal Oman Navy, Rear Admiral Salim bin Abdullah bin Rashid al Alawi.

The navies of India and Oman held joint exercises in Indian waters in November, and will conduct the next war game in April 2007.

Mukherjee had said on Friday that India is seeking to strengthen defence ties with Oman, especially in the area of ordnance, spares and equipment.

The Indian minister has also met Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdallah, Oman’s minister for foreign affairs, to discuss regional and international developments, as well as ways of enhancing bilateral relations.

Mukherjee expressed satisfaction at India-Oman cooperation in defence-related matters following the signing of the memorandum of understanding.

The two countries have been cooperating for some time now in military and defence-related matters, and Mukherjee praised Oman for its cooperation in biennial joint naval exercise.

“India values and appreciates the cooperation of the Sultanate of Oman in diverse fields,” he said.

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About direct trade between India and Oman, Mukherjee said with operations of the Oman India Fertiliser Company (OMIFCO) well under way, the imbalance in trade figures would be rectified.

He said more institutional agreements between the two countries are on the anvil. His visit coincides with festivities marking the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between India and Oman