On the occasion of 68th Republic Day of India, I extend my heartiest congratulations and felicitations to all Indians and Persons of Indian Origin living in the Sultanate of Oman.
I convey, on my behalf as well as on behalf of the Government of India and Indian community in Oman, greetings and best wishes to His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said,
the Government of His Majesty the Sultan and the People of Oman for continued development, peace and prosperity of the Sultanate of Oman. May His Majesty the Sultan stay blessed with a long and healthy life and succeed in all his endeavours to make Oman a great nation. I thank His Majesty the Sultan and His Majesty the Sultan’s government for their abiding commitment to expand and strengthen the strategic partnership between India and Oman and for providing a conducive environment for the Indian community, including business persons, professionals and workers, to live and work in Oman. I am confident that my fellow Indians who consider Oman their second home, shall continue to work with diligence and dedication, making their valuable contribution to the development and prosperity of Oman and India.
26th January, Republic Day, is a special day for the people of India because, on this day in 1950, the Republic of India was born. On this day, 67 years ago, the people of India solemnly resolved to constitute India into a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.
As we celebrate the 68th Republic Day, we feel proud of our achievements. India today is the largest, most diverse and, perhaps, the most vibrant democracy of the world, with over 1.25bn Indians working together to fulfill their aspirations. Our economy has been growing at a pace of over seven per cent; it has emerged as the fastest growing major economy of the world. The economic reforms being undertaken by the government will contribute in keeping India’s economy on a high growth trajectory for decades to come. Our achievements in the field of science and technology, in key areas like defence, space, nuclear energy, information technology, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, etc. are globally recognised. Yet, we are aware that we continue to face monumental challenges in achieving our goal of sustainable and inclusive development of India, including provision of education, health, employment and social security for all. I invite the Indian community living in Oman to contribute to the success of various flagship projects being undertaken by the Government of India like ‘Make in India’, ‘Clean India’, Digital India’, ‘Skill India’, ‘Startup India’, ‘Smart Cities’ as well as infrastructure projects to develop roads, ports, airports, railways, telecom, industrial corridors etc.
Inspired by civilisational and historical links spanning over 5000 years, India and Oman have expanded their bilateral cooperation and exchanges since the establishment of their diplomatic relations in 1955, forging a mutually beneficial Strategic Partnership. India-Oman bilateral relations are anchored in their shared interests, mutual understanding and respect for each other’s priorities, concerns and sensitivities. Regular high-level visits and exchanges have been a key feature of this partnership. The successful visits of Defence Minister of India, in May 2016 and Minister of State for External Affairs of India, in December 2016, have imparted a new momentum to bilateral cooperation and exchanges. The year 2016 also saw the fourth round of India-Oman Strategic Dialogue as well as the fifth meeting of Joint Working Group on Manpower. India remains committed to nurture and expand its strategic partnership with Oman through enhancing the existing cooperation and identifying new areas for bilateral, regional and global collaboration with a view to meet the aspirations for our two countries.
The economic relations between India and Oman remain robust and buoyant. Though bilateral trade has declined during past two years from US$5.77bn in 2013-14 to US$3.8bn in 2015-16, it has begun to stabilise, and has reached US$1.88bn during April-September 2016. Investment flows, both ways, have been robust, as reflected in numerous joint ventures, established both in India and Oman. There are more than 2900 Indo-Omani joint ventures in Oman. The India-Oman Joint Investment Fund (OIJIF) has been operational and the initial corpus of US$100mn has been fully utilised. OIJIF has raised another US$220mn for the second tranche which is ready for investments.
The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme, under which India provides vocational training and skills upgradation, has gained popularity in Oman. Keeping in mind our exceptionally close bilateral relations, Government of India has again allocated 150 slots under the ITEC Programme for Oman for the year ending March 31, 2017. India is ready to share its experience in skill development and development of medium and small enterprises.
A notable feature of people-to-people contacts between India and Oman in recent times has been the increasing tourist flow to ‘Incredible India’ from Oman. India is dotted with rich cultural, natural and historical sites, including a number of Unesco’s World Heritage Sites. It is endowed with exceptional natural beauty like rushing rivers, lofty snow-capped mountains, green plains, mystic deserts, serene backwaters etc. It is blessed with incredible cultural diversity, expressed in diverse attires, languages, customs, crafts, festivals and cuisines. Naturally, it has emerged as a coveted tourist destination for Omanis, which is evident in the increase in the number of visas issued by the embassy, reaching almost 95,000 in 2016 as compared to 59,000 in 2013. In recent years, India has also emerged as a preferred destination for medical and wellness tourism, with numerous Omanis choosing India for their medical treatment at various state-of-the-art hospitals. The embassy has created a special window for fast-track processing of medical visas.
Thanks to the historical cultural ties between India and Oman, the people of Oman are quite familiar with the culture of India. Nevertheless, to present to the people of Oman some lesser known facets of India’s rich and diverse culture, the Embassy of India, with the support of India’s Ministry of Culture, is organising the first ever ‘Festival of India in Oman’ spread over five months from November 2016 to March 2017. The festival comprises Indian ballet and folk dances, Indian instrumental music, an exhibition of Indian calligraphy, food festival and fashion show.
H E Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs, inaugurated the festival on November 15, 2016 at Al Bustan Palace Hotel. The Festival of India in Oman has received enthusiastic response from the people of Oman and Indian community in Oman.
The historical people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges have been sustained and nurtured by vibrant Indian community in Oman, which has been promoting Indian culture in Oman. The community made immense contribution in celebrations to mark the second International Day of Yoga, leading to participation of around 3,000 persons in the signature Yoga Session on June 21, 2016 in Muscat. The Indian Embassy in Muscat has been providing support to various community organisations, including Indian Social Clubs in Oman, their various branches and linguistic wings, which are engaged in providing social services and organising cultural events for the community and will continue to do so in future. The embassy has also been extending its support to 19 Indian Schools in Oman, which are providing quality education to Indian children.
The Indian Embassy remains committed to cater to the needs of the Indian community in Oman through its community welfare services and to provide, in an efficient and time bound manner, various passport and consular services. The embassy has made efforts to reach out to the Indian community living in other cities and distant camps through open houses and visits to camps. It has been extending help to Indian workers through its free bi-weekly legal sessions and daily open houses. The embassy has set up a 24-hour helpline service for Indian workers in distress. The embassy shall also continue to make efforts towards protecting the legitimate rights of Indian workers and professionals as well as business community under Omani Laws, in cooperation and coordination with the Government of Oman.
On this auspicious 68th Republic Day of India, I once again extend my warm greetings to my fellow citizens in Oman and thank them for their contribution to growth and development of Oman and India. I am looking forward to receiving continued cooperation of the Government and people of Oman to further deepen and diversify our strategic partnership with Oman. I hope that the Indian community in Oman will continue to contribute to India’s growth story. I further hope that the Indian community shall continue to extend its full cooperation to the Indian Embassy and partner with us in delivery of various services to the community in an efficient and timely manner.