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India, Oman agrees to bolster maritime cooperation

Defence Minister A K Antony with the Omanese Sayyid Badr bin Saud bin Harib Al Busaidi in Muscat

MUSCAT (PTI): In the backdrop of terrorists using sea routes to carry out attacks and rising piracy incidents in the Gulf of Aden, India and Oman on Wednesday agreed to jointly fight the twin menace and accelerate their cooperation.

Defence Minister A K Antony met his Omanese counterpart Sayyid Badr bin Saud bin Harib Al Busaidi here and the two sides agreed to strengthen their cooperation in the field.

"Maritime security is one of the issues that are causing concern to countries around the world and it has become a global concern due to the pirate attacks in the Gulf of Aden," Antony said during his meeting.

"After the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008, issues of maritime security have emerged as a major aspect of India's security concerns," he added.

"Piracy off the coast of Somalia has been growing over the years and has now assumed alarming proportions," he said, calling for joint efforts by nations with common interest in the region.

Giving details of the anti-piracy measures taken by India, he said the Navy had commenced patrols in the Gulf of Aden from October 2008 to protect Indian-flag ships and Indian citizens employed in sea-faring duties.

"A total of 16 Indian Navy ships have been deployed in the Gulf of Aden since. In addition to escorting Indian flag ships, ships of flying flags of other nations too have been escorted," he said.

"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-Cofliction (SHADE) meetings since April 2009," he added.

Referring to Afghanistan, Antony said both India and Oman shared their concerns over the terrorists finding a safe haven there.

"We (India and Oman) 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.

Antony said India’s efforts in Afghanistan were focused on economic and social development activities. "We intend to continue such activities even though we have lost personnel and have suffered attacks on our embassy in Kabul," he added.

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