When Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to the Middle East trip, he also visited Oman. During that visit, PM Modi signed an agreement with Muscat which allows India to gain access to the strategically located port of Duqm. Duqm is located on the Southern Coast of Oman. It is located on northwestern edge of the Indian Ocean and also provides easy access onward into the Red Sea through the Gulf of Aden.
Per initial reports, the contours of the Indo-Omani agreement over Duqm are generous for New Delhi. The Indian Navy will be able to use the port for logistics and support, allowing it to sustain long-term operations in the western Indian Ocean, a hotspot for piracy in the area. According to the Indian Express, a dry dock will be available to the Indian Navy at Duqm as well, allowing for maintenance without returning vessels to India-based shipyards. (source)
China had been in the process of creating a “String of Pearls” – referring to strategic coastal facilities to counter India and other Naval powers in the region. Some of these were – military base in Djibouti, port facility at Gwadar in Pakistan, and creating the southern terminal of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.How India Gained Access to Oman's Duqm and Djibouti's ports to Counter China and Pakistan #Pakistan #Gwadar #Modifor2019 Click To Tweet
There are two reasons why this agreement is such a big deal. One, China was trying to get access to the port and was developing the Duqm Special Economic Zone. This deal makes sure – specifically with Indian Navy getting the access – that China cannot exert its muscle here. Two, China was developing Gwadar for access to the Middle East. But with India developing Chabahar and getting access to Duqm, it has virtually choked that access for China. See the map below for the location.
So all those visits by PM Modi had a lot of strategic intent. Pulling the Duqm deal off with Oman was nothing short of a coup!
Basically, if you see, the investment in Gwadar by China and Pakistan has been all but neutralized because of these two choking points. Although some analysts are downplaying this, but with the larger security initiatives going on in the Indian Ocean, this can be a big deal.
In particular, with renewed interest in the Quadrilateral Initiative and the Japanese-led “free and open Indo-Pacific” concept gaining support among like-minded democratic states in the region, the stage is being set for a sustainable security network in the Indian Ocean. Duqm — and other facilities — are just a part of this… (source)
And, friendship with Oman has been important for many things. Remember how Fr Tom Uzhunnalil was freed from the ISIS? That was also thanks to the intervention by Oman!
Now, for Djibouti. India’s President Ram Nath Kovind had visited Djibouti last year. And thanks to that, a dialog started to counter the Chinese set up there. And later, with PM Modi’s effort and friendship with Japan, India got a foothold in Djibouti as well.
According to media reports, the agreement will require armed forces of India and Japan to help each other with logistic support, including food, water, billet, transport, petroleum, oils, lubricants, clothing, communications, medical services, base support, storage, use of facilities, training services, spare parts, repair and maintenance and airport and seaport services.
Once the agreement is inked, the Indian defence forces will be able to use the military facilities of Japan, including its overseas base in Djibouti. Apart from the US and Japan, the People’s Liberation Army of China too set up its own military base in Djibouti, which is wedged between the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea and hence, a natural gatekeeper to a vital and extremely bustling sea-lane.
It is critical to work with allies and make new friendships to counter China. And it takes creativity in setting up such interventions around the world. Which is something that India is now doing for the first time in its independent history!