Taking their defence cooperation a step further, India and Oman have agreed to accelerate their cooperation in maritime security and regional security issues.
The decision was taken at the bilateral discussions between the visiting defence minister AK Antony and his Oman counterpart Sayyid Badr bin Saud bin Harib Al Busaidi at Muscat today.
Speaking at the meeting during his first ever visit to West Asia, Antony said maritime security is one of the issues that are causing concern to countries around the world. For India, he said, maritime security have emerged as a major issue after the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008.
"Maritime security has also become a global concern due to the pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden. Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been growing over the years and has now assumed alarming proportions," he said.
Antony said, to protect Indian flag ships and Indian citizens employed in sea-faring duties, Indian Navy had commenced anti-piracy patrols in the Gulf of Aden from October 2008. A total of 16 Indian navy ships have been deployed in the Gulf of Aden since then. In addition to escorting Indian flagships, ships of other flags have also been escorted. "We are cooperating with other navies deployed in this area by way of information sharing and have been participating in the shared awareness and de-confliction (SHADE) meetings since April 2009," he said.
The two sides also discussed a number of issues - bilateral and regional. Referring to Afghanistan, Antony said, "we have a common aim in Afghanistan and that is to ensure that it does not become a base of safe haven for terrorists again. We want a stable, moderate, unified and democratic Afghanistan". He said New Delhi's efforts in Afghanistan are focused on economic and social development activities.