December 10, 2007

Oman wrinkles ironed out

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1071211/asp/nation/story_8653658.asp
JYOTI MALHOTRA

Said

New Delhi, Dec. 10: Oman’s deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Fahad bin Mahmoud al Said, visiting India from December 12-15, had, until a few days ago, cancelled his trip.

Reason?
The all-powerful leader from Oman wanted a “state visit”, but Delhi’s overwhelming protocol minutiae kept coming in the way.
After some heavy wrestling between Muscat and Delhi, the ministry of external affairs decided it was imperative to retrieve the situation. After all, Oman was India’s No. 1 friend in the Gulf region, and nearly 400,000 Indians live and work there.

At last, a suitably “flexible” solution was found. So when the Omani deputy Prime Minister’s plane lands at Delhi’s Palam airport on Wednesday, he will be received with a tri-service guard of honour.

Sources said a full unit of men from the army, navy and the air force will offer a red-carpet welcome at the airport, an honour that had been discontinued some 10 years back.

When talks are held in Hyderabad House on Friday, the Omani sultan’s uncle will again be welcomed “appropriately”. He is a guest of Manmohan Singh, so the dinner banquet on the same day will be hosted by the Prime Minister.

It looks now as if Muscat has been suitably pacified. However, neither side wants to talk about the spat that has since been smoothed over. Foreign ministry officials hesitated to confirm details of Said’s trip, saying the programme was still being finalised.

Delhi has also held its ground. A ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan will not be held for the Omani leader. In Delhi’s book of protocol, the “state visit” is the acme of all visits and is not to be trifled with.

Instead, Delhi and Muscat will get down to the business at hand. There is enough trade potential to break new ground and two MoUs — on starting an institute of plastic and an institute of entrepreneurship in Oman, which Muscat will fund — are likely to be signed.

India-Oman bilateral trade touched $1 billion last year. Over 100 Indian companies have a presence in that country, and there are nearly 25 Omani companies in India.

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