President Dr Arif Alvi, Prime Minister Imran Khan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and other civil and military leadership has expressed heart-felt condolences on the demise of Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said of Oman who breathed his last on Friday. Pakistan hopes that bilateral relations with brotherly state will further flourish under the leadership of new Sultan.
Oman and Pakistan are natural partners due to geographical proximity and the leadership, Government and the people of Pakistan held His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said and the brotherly people of Oman in high esteem.
Relations between Oman and Pakistan are excellent close, warm, brotherly, cordial and deep. Both countries are members of UN, OIC and NAM. There are over 250,000 Pakistani immigrants resident in Oman. 30 percent of Omanis are of Balochi origin from Pakistan’s Balochistan province, having settled in Oman over a hundred years ago.
The bilateral trade relations between Pakistan and Oman are on the rise. According to Pakistan’s official figures (February 2018), Pakistan exported goods to Oman worth $ 142.3 million which is 67 percent higher than $ 85.2 million worth of exports in 2017. The volume of goods imported from Oman was recorded at $ 234.1 million in 2018 higher by 21.7 percent as compared to $ 192.4 million worth of imports in 2017.
The trade balance, which stood at $ 91.8 million, has bettered by 14.9 percent in favor of Pakistan as compared to $ 107.19 million in FY17, yet it needs attention of the govt. authorities as to how Pakistan’s volume of export to Oman could be enhanced. Nonetheless, trade volume has been increasing but there is also a need to enhance the overall trade volume by making joint cooperation in different fields of economy.
It is pertinent to mention that key industries of Oman are crude oil production and refining, natural and liquefied natural gas (LNG) production, construction, cement, copper, steel, chemicals and optic fiber. Oman’s major export commodities are petroleum, organic chemicals, metals and fertilizers to partners China, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and India. Its main imports are machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, aircraft, food, iron and steel from partners UAE, India, China, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and US. Pakistan’s exports to Oman mainly include cereals and meat. Major imports from Oman are POL products, iron and steel, plastics and organic chemicals.
An introspection of the two countries would highlight strong reasons for further bilateral cooperation in the areas of defense, trade, tourism, human resources, oil gas, ports, industry, CPEC, Infrastructure and foreign policy. Most recently, both countries have agreed to enhance cooperation in the fields of trade and economy given the geographical closeness of Pakistan and Oman. Oman considers Pakistan a gateway for Oman access to the Central Asian States.
Being prominent regional expert to Oman/GCC it is strongly recommended that bilateral cooperation can be further strengthened and taken to the new heights by improving economic relations. The current level of bilateral trade is not match with excellent political ties and highlights the need to diversify bilateral trade by taking advantage of geographical proximity, the investment friendly policies of Pakistan, and Pakistan’s potential of exporting food items, construction materials, leather and surgical goods to Oman.
Pakistani community has been making valuable contribution to the development of Oman which needs to be increased in employment of Pakistani workers in banking, health, education, petroleum and food sectors. Further socio-economic integration and regional connectivity of both the countries are also linked with each other. It forms a strong impetus for fostering comprehensive bilateral cooperation between Pakistan and Oman in light of their mutually shared interests.
Oman’s special spot in the GCC/MENA in terms of its foreign policy maneuvering, ethnic composition, and proximity with Pakistan are factors that will facilitate the strengthening of relations between Pakistan and Oman. It will also provide Pakistan with a strategic partner in the Gulf.
Pak Oman Microfinance Bank Limited has also been established in order to enhance trade between Oman and Pakistan. Both the countries have also agreed that bilateral accords on defence cooperation, business sectors, labour and manpower which are in their final stages needed to be brought to fruition.
Author is the President, Center of Pakistan and International Relations (COPAIR) and Editor-in-Chief of ‘Mélange int’l Magazine’ and ‘ The Asian Telegraph’