PM Narendra Modi with Sultan Qaboos. (Courtesy: Twitter)
With the demise of Oman’s Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said, India has lost a key friend and partner in the Gulf region where it has vital stakes. Sultan Qaboos, the longest-reigning leader of the modern Arab world, died on Friday at the age of 79.
As a student, Qaboos was taught by Shankar Dayal Sharma who went on to become the President of India. Sultan Qaboos’s father, an alumnus of Ajmer’s Mayo College, sent his son to study in Pune for some time, where he was Sharma’s student.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday condoled the demise of Sultan Qaboos and described him as a beacon of peace for the region and the world. “I am deeply saddened to learn about the passing away of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said. He was a visionary leader and statesman who transformed Oman into a modern and prosperous nation,” Modi tweeted.
Sultan Qaboos was a true friend of India and provided strong leadership for developing a vibrant strategic partnership between India and Oman, the Prime Minister said. “I will always cherish the warmth and affection I received from him. May his soul rest in peace,” Modi said.
“He had very fond memories from his student days and that is the reason he has been very generous towards the Indian community and India’s requests for help,” an Indian diplomat told The Sunday Express from Muscat.
Sultan Qaboos also played a role in the release of Father Tom Uzhunnalil, the Vatican priest who was abducted in Yemen in March 2016 and released in September 2017.
There are about 7.7 lakh Indians in Oman, of which about 6.55 lakh are workers and professionals. There are Indian families living in Oman for more than 150-200 years. Thousands of Indians are working as doctors, engineers, chartered accountants, teachers, lecturers, nurses, and managers, among other professionals.
India will look at the new ruler, Haitham bin Tariq (65), Oman's former culture minister and Qaboos's cousin, for being a generous benefactor for the Indian community.