By Dr Mukul Kapoor | PUBLISHED: 22, Oct 2018, 15:35 pm IST | UPDATED: 22, Nov 2018, 12:58 pm IST
India and Oman have a long-standing cultural relationship dating back to the seventh century, and there was a close link between ancient Oman and Indian civilization. India was under British rule until 1947 while Oman, though an independent state, was a British Protectorate till 1971. Sultan Saeed Bin Taimur and Fahr Bin Taimur studied at Mayo College Ajmer in Rajasthan.
The traditional trade relationship blossomed into a strategic friendship between the two nations after India gained independence in 1947. His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said of Oman spent his formative years in India and did his primary and secondary school education in Pune. The Sultan’s equation with his teacher, the erstwhile President of India Pandit Shankar Dayal Sharma, possibly strengthened the foundation of this friendship. The friendship has matured over the years into a symbiotic bond benefitting the people of the two nations.
Sultan Qaboos bin Said vision to develop Oman into a dynamic nation lead a renaissance to transform the lives of his people and build a modern Oman. He ensured the preservation of the Omani traditions while planning the process of modernisation. India has been a supportive partner during this process, popularly referred to as ‘Omanisation'. Technical and non-technical human resources from India have been a driving force during this economic resurgence. Workforce from India has been a significant contributor to the infrastructure development while Indian intelligentsia helped set up centres of excellence and training establishments.
India and Oman, both have a rich culture, literature and tradition and are proud of their cultural and literary heritage. The use of the Arabic language and writing is widespread in India and India gave birth to a galaxy of Arabic scholars and poets. During the Abbasid period, Indian scholars were invited to the Court to translate some famous Sanskrit books into Arabic.
There are more than 800,000 Indian expatriates in Oman, working in a vast array of professions. The expatriate Indian community in Oman is held in high regard for their professionalism and hard work. The Indian expatriate community regularly hosts performances by famous Indian cultural artistes, film personalities and singers. The warm, unequivocal and enthusiastic cultural synergy of the India-Oman relations are sustained and nurtured by this vibrant Indian expatriate community.
Over the years, India and Oman have strengthened their centuries-old civilizational links and their historical socio-economic relations. Center of Arabic and African Studies, JNU Delhi, organised a two-day international seminar on the “Literary and Cultural Legacy of Oman and India” in 2010 at New Delhi, to highlight on the achievements and contributions of Oman and India. The two countries signed a MoU for cultural cooperation in 2010. National Archives of India and the National Records and Archive Authority of Oman actively cooperate under the MoU. During the recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Oman, the two nations agreed to expand the cultural reciprocity by regular exchange of cultural troupes and to host cultural festivals.
The Embassy of India organised a 6-month long Festival of India in Oman from November 2016 to March 2017. The festival was hosted by the Indian Embassy to showcase India’s diverse culture, traditions, and heritage to the people of Oman. The festival events were organised in all major cities of Oman. Embassy of India hosted a Special Reception to celebrate India’s 70th Independence Day in 2017 and held many Seminars, Essay Competitions, Painting Competitions, cultural performances, and musical performances throughout the year. Indian Social Clubs of Oman and the Indian Schools actively took part in the India@70 celebration.
On the 3rd International Day of Yoga on 21 June 2017, around 4,500 persons participated in the Yoga Display at the Oman International Exhibition Centre which included Omanis, expatriates from other countries and Indian Diaspora. During the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Omani functionaries appreciated his role in getting 21 June declared as the International Yoga Day by the United Nations and India’s efforts to propagate Yoga to create a healthy world. Prime Minister Narendra Modi thanked the Oman Government for supporting the celebration of International Day of Yoga.
Oman is an exceptional nation in the Middle East which guarantees the freedom of religious belief to its residents. There are two Hindu temples in Oman, of which one is more than a hundred years old, which regularly hold prayers and celebrate Hindu festivals. Rights of cremation, as per their religious custom, are granted to Hindus. There are nearly four small gurudwaras for the Sikh and seven churches for various Christian sects living in this country. The Omani government has permitted the Indian Community to build a permanent gurudwara and a big temple in Oman.
Exchange of people between the two countries, for tourism, is on the rise. Every year, the Indian Embassy issues nearly 100,000 visas to Omanis, mainly for tourism, and this number is expected to grow. India offers exotic tourist locations universally acknowledged for their historical and cultural importance. Indian tourism industry is versatile and gives packages suited to different tastes and requirement. Omani nationals can savour the beauty of the deserts of Rajasthan and have a very different dessert experience. They can visit the highlands with scenic beauty and enjoy the vast coastal regions of India. The variety of delicious food catered in India is mind-boggling and unparalleled.
Travel and Tourism contribute between 7-8% of the GDP of Oman. About 200,000 foreign visitors are attracted to Oman every year. In 2017, the World Travel and Tourism Council placed Oman 9th in the world for its tourism industry growth potential. India is the most significant tourism source for the Gulf counties. From 2017, Oman started granting one month visa to non-sponsored Indian tourists, if they had hotel reservations for their stay. In June 2018, Oman relaxed the visa rules further and introduced Visa on Arrival for Indians with valid USA, UK, Canada, Australia, Japan and Schengen visa.
The beautiful Omani landscapes provide shooting locales for Indian film producers. The Wadis, the Oasis towns and the beautiful coastal areas are a tourist’s delight. The desert Safari of Oman and the entertaining shows at the desert camps are very popular with Indian tourists, The annual Salalah Tourism festival, held to celebrate the monsoon season from June to early September, is a popular attraction. A plethora of cultural, art, sport, heritage, contest and shopping activities are on display during the festival. Encouraged by the growing tourism exchanges, the two nations signed an MOU on Cooperation in Tourism during the last visit to Oman by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.