India gets access to strategic Duqm port in Oman for military use
India has secured access to key strategic Port of Duqm in Oman in Arabian sea for military use and logistical support. This was one of the key takeaways of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Oman.
During this visit, annexure to Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Military Cooperation was signed between the two countries. Following this pact, the services of Duqm port and dry dock will be available for maintenance of Indian military vessels.
The Port of Duqm is strategically located situated on southeastern seaboard of Oman, overlooking Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. It is straddled along critical sea lanes in Arabian Sea and Gulf of Aden. It is located in close proximity to Chabahar port in Iran ( being developed by India open a trade route to Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan) and Gwadar Port in Pakistan which is developed by China as part of CPEC (China–Pakistan Economic Corridor). The port also has special economic zone, where about $1.8 billion investments are being made by some Indian companies.
It will further expand India’s footprint in the Indian Ocean region (IOR). This will strengthen India’s maritime strategy to counter Chinese influence and activities in the region. The access to Duqm port fits into India’s proactive maritime security roadmap along with development string of military facilities at Assumption Island in Seychelles and Agalega in Mauritius to counter China’s increasing presence. It also recognizes India and Oman’s common responsibility towards promoting regional peace and security. It will further cement bilateral strategic engagement especially in the areas of security and defence between both countries.
India and Oman had signed MoU on Military Cooperation in 2005 and renewed it in 2016. It has provided the general framework to strengthen bilateral defence ties. Moreover, MoUs on cooperation in maritime security and between Coast Guards of the two countries signed in May 2016 have provided a firm foundation for deepening institutional interactions. Recently, Duqm Port had seen rise in Indian activities. In September 2017, India had deployed attack Shishumar-class submarine along with naval ship INS Mumbai and two P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft to this port in the western Arabian Sea with the aim of enhancing surveillance and cooperation.
In recent years, China has significantly increased deployment of naval assets in Indian Ocean Region. It is planning to set up base in Pakistan’s Gwadar port, which it has acquired for period of 40 years. It has also acquired Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port for 99 years in ‘debt-equity’ swap and also has expanded presence in Maldives. Apart from surface vessels, many conventional and nuclear submarines of People’s Liberation Army Navy have been spotted in Indian Ocean.