NEW DELHI — India and Oman signed pacts to upgrade their defense ties during Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's May 20-22 visit to the gulf nation, which was the first country India established defense ties with in the 1970s.

The countries agreed to work together on boosting defense, crime prevention at sea, maritime issues and a flight safety information exchange.

A Ministry of Defense (MoD) official said the two countries will explore the possibility of India exporting weapons to Oman, which could also include setting up defense production facilities there.

Parrikar was accompanied by a high-powered delegation of military planners and officials, including Ashok Gupta, secretary (defence production); Dr. S. Christopher, secretary, director general of the Defence Research and Development Organization; Lt. Gen. MMS Rai, vice chief of Army Staff; Vice Adm. Sunil Lanba, Western Naval Command; and Air Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, vice chief of Air Staff.

Seldom has such a big delegation been part of a defense minister's visit overseas, the MoD official said, which he said indicates the level of defense cooperation India and Oman are hoping to achieve.

Oman is the first country in the gulf region to procure the Indian small arms system (INSAS), built by the state-run Ordnance Factory Board.

India's state-owned Goa Shipyard Limited has delivered three tugboats to Oman and additional orders are expected, the MoD official said.

MoD's official release said, "During his visit, the Defence Minister met Deputy Prime Minister for the Council of Ministers Sayyid Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Said, Minister of Royal Office Lt. Gen. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Nu'amani and held bilateral talks with Minister Responsible for Defense Affairs Bader Bin Saud Bin Harib Al Busaidi."

Oman has given berthing rights to Indian Navy vessels, which have been used for anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden. In addition the Indian Air Force has been holding joint exercises.

"Parrikar reiterated (during his talks with Oman leaders) the high importance that India attaches to its strategic partnership with Oman," the release said.

He conveyed his appreciation at the "continued support rendered by Oman for the operational turnaround of Indian Navy ships for anti-piracy patrols as well as technical support for landing and over flight of Indian Air Force aircraft," the MoD release said.

Vivek Raghuvanshi is the India correspondent for Defense News.

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