Muscat, Jan 14 (mb): India sought to elevate its ties with Oman on Sunday to a "strategic partnership" as the two countries discussed the setting up of a USD100 million fund to invest in selected areas in each other's countries.
The issue of increased investment in each other's countries was discussed during an hour-long meeting between External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Oman's Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Fahd Bin Mahmoud Al Said here.
Mukherjee said India would welcome Omani participation in investment in the country, particularly in the field of infrastructure and petrochemicals, India's ambassador to Oman Anil Wadhwa, who was present during the meeting, said.
During the talks, both sides lauded the historic bilateral relations between India and Oman "which are based on mutual understanding and respect for each other's culture and common viewpoints on various international issues," the envoy said.
India and Oman share the desire to elevate bilateral relations into a strategic partnership in all areas, Mukherjee, who arrived this afternoon on a two-day visit, said during the parleys.
Both sides discussed possibilities of cooperation in a number of sectors such as education, IT, telecommunications, hydrocarbons, labour and manpower, regional security and stability, agriculture, and science & technology.
During his meeting with Yousuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, Minister Responsible for Foreign Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman, Mukherjee said the GCC region is of critical importance to India.
Both the Ministers exchanged views on regional and international issues of importance and discussed ways of taking bilateral relations to a new strategic plain, Wadhwa said.
The talks also focused on using the proposed USD100 million fund in sectors such as education, information technology, telecommunications, agriculture and science and technology.
The meeting also reviewed the decisions taken during the Omani Deputy Prime Minister's visit to India in December.
Four agreements were signed during the visit aimed at fostering cooperation in the growth of small and medium enterprises, entrepreneurship and higher education.
Later, Mukherjee presided over a Conference of 21 Indian ambassadors from Gulf and West Asia and North Africa region.
Mukherjee and Alawi will also jointly inaugurate the new Chancery-cum-Embassy Residence Complex.
The timing of the visit is significant since it underlines India's growing relations with the GCC which had now emerged as India's third largest trading partner after EU and North America.
There are 4.5 million Indians working in the six GCC states, who remit USD18 billion back home every year.
In December, a high-level Omani delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister Sayyid Fahd Bin Mahmoud Al Said paid a visit to India.