BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN — Oman marks its 50th National Day on November 18. With a firm resolve, Omani citizens continue to make more achievements under the wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq.
His Majesty has vowed to enhance nation-building and the pace of progress to achieve an ambitious renaissance that covers all spheres of life.
Yet, this year’s celebration is affected by sentiments of sorrow with the loss of the father of Omani renaissance, the late Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Bin Taimour, who shaped Oman to what it is today.
36 years of Brunei-Oman relations
This year marks the 36th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Oman and Brunei Darussalam.
Since the two sultanates established diplomatic ties on March 24, 1984, bilateral relations have always enjoyed stable and steady development and attained remarkable achievements.
Over the past three and half decades, Oman and Brunei have concluded numerous agreements and memoranda of understanding that had strengthened cooperation in different fields.
The close relations are evident with the establishment of a joint working group known as the Bilateral Consultative Meeting in 1993.
To date, 19 meetings have taken place between the two countries.
During the December 19 meeting in the capital city of Muscat, both sides expressed satisfaction with the progress achieved in bilateral relations and agreed on the importance of continuing efforts towards strengthening the existing ties.
Cultural cooperation is one of the strong areas of our bilateral relations.
Oman has participated in the Brunei Book Fair over the past eight years, while delegations from Brunei’s Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports have been sent to participate in the Muscat International Book Fair.
In line with the embassy’s efforts to promote Omani cultural and scientific heritage in Brunei, a fifth Omani Publications Corner was launched at the library of Royal Brunei Armed Forces Defence Academy on October 8, 2020.
The book corner was named after Al Muhallab bin Abi Sufra Al Azdi, a prominent military general of Omani descent.
Similar Omani book corners were launched at the libraries of Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) in 2016, Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) in 2017, Seri Begawan Religious Teachers University College in 2018 and Universiti Teknologi Brunei in 2019.
To promote the Arabic language among Bruneians, four teachers from Brunei’s Ministry of Religious Affairs became the fifth batch of scholars to be given partial scholarships to study at the Sultan Qaboos College for Teaching Arabic to Non-Native Speakers in 2019.
So far, 19 participants from Brunei have benefited from this eight-week programme.
In terms of student exchanges, seven Omani students from Sultan Qaboos University and University of Nizwa studied in UBD for one semester this year.
Recognising the importance of people-to-people ties between Oman and Brunei Darussalam, the embassy co-organised the first Regional Arabic Language Camp with UNISSA.
A total of 112 participants from local and regional universities joined the language camp earlier this year.
Defence cooperation is another area of Brunei-Oman relations that has also grown steadily.
Both countries’ armed forces regularly participate in command and staff courses and other military events and training in Oman and Brunei.
Moreover, two officers from the Sultan of Oman’s Armed Forces participated in the 12th Brunei International Skill-At-Arms Meet (12th BISAM) Technical Meeting in March 2020.
Oman and Brunei have also maintained strong cooperation in economic investments over the past several years.
Oman Brunei Investment Company (OBIC), jointly established by our two governments in 2009, continued to make the most of business opportunities in Oman and Brunei to boost economic development and contribute to their economic diversification plans.
Furthermore, the Omani Investment Authority (OIA) and Brunei Investment Agency have agreed to increase the capital of OBIC by another US$100 million, bringing the total capital of the company to US$200 million.
The agreement was signed on the sidelines of the 19th Bilateral Consultative Meeting between Brunei’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Oman’s Foreign Ministry in Muscat last year.
In November 2019, OBIC acquired a 50 percent share of Brunei-based Golden Corporation, a company that specialises in fish farming and high-quality seafood products. This was OBIC’s first investment in Brunei.
Moreover, the longstanding shared values and similar energy landscapes of Brunei and Oman have been key in nurturing close ties between the two brotherly countries.
The Brunei-Oman Joint Seminar, organised by Brunei’s Ministry of Energy and Oman’s Ministry of Energy and Minerals, symbolises this partnership.
The biennial seminar, hosted alternately between both countries, was first held in 2014 in Brunei before Oman hosted the second meeting in 2016. The most recent meeting took place in Brunei last April.
The seminar was established as a platform to share best practices and promote opportunities in areas of mutual interest, as well as enhance understanding of the business and investment environments in both countries, especially in industry sectors.
This relationship is further fortified with the exchange of professionals through cross-posting of staff from Brunei Shell Petroleum and Petroleum Development Oman, as well as Brunei LNG and Oman Liquefied Natural Gas LLC, an arrangement that has been ongoing for several years.
Therefore, it’s evident that relations between the two sultanates have extended beyond the political spheres to include other important areas of cooperation.
We firmly believe that with the joint efforts of both sides, there will more positive results from our cooperation.
Moreover, we hope that the friendship and cooperation between Oman and Brunei will grow from strength to strength.
We are also confident that with the outstanding leadership of Their Majesties Sultan Haitham Bin Tariq Bin Taimour and Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, the bonds of friendship will be further cemented in the years ahead.
Oman looks forward to setting new milestones
Oman’s blessed march towards renaissance and development is reflected in various areas of life across the country.
With the progress achieved and still being made, citizens and the community enjoy sustainable development from the governorate of Musandam in the north down to the governorate of Dhofar in the south.
Royal directives to tackle COVID-19
His Majesty Sultan Haitam bin Tariq’s attention to the people is shown in the way he tackled the COVID-19 pandemic.
His Majesty gave orders to form a supreme committee to deal with the virus — monitor its spread, follow up regional and international efforts to limit its impact and devise solutions in accordance with health assessments.
Headed by His Excellency Sayyid Hamoud bin Faisal al-Busaidi, Minister of Interior, the supreme committee has been implementing the directives of His Majesty, who presided over one of its meetings last March.
In the meeting, His Majesty pledged the government’s full support to the committee.
He said the government, “in its mandate to protect the health of citizens and residents, will spare no effort in combating the pandemic and curbing its spread”.
Oman Vision 2040
Due to the vital role of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in economic growth, the government of Oman, through its Ministry of Labour, has been working to establish a suitable environment for SMEs.
In this respect, His Majesty Sultan Haitam bin Tariq said, “We understand the significance of the small and medium enterprise sector and entrepreneurship sector, notably projects based on innovation, artificial intelligence and advanced technologies.
“Attention will be accorded to training and empowering youth to help them benefit from opportunities offered by these vital sectors so that they could establish the core component of a smart national economy. Our government will follow up the progress made in these domains step by step.”
Furthermore, the government has been investing in Omani ports, particularly Port of Sohar and Port of Salalah, in addition to special economic zones (including in Duqm and Port of Duqm).
The tourism sector also forms one of the basic pillars of Oman’s economic diversification.
The government has devised clear-cut strategies to maximise benefits from investment in the tourism sector.
Education and research
His Majesty Sultan Haitham accorded top priority to the education sector.
He gave directives to provide a supportive environment that enhances learning, research and innovation. The aim is to enable Omani citizens to contribute to national development.
The National Strategy for Research and Development has been modernised to keep pace with Oman Vision 2040, notably the development of a community that is capable of competing and converting knowledge into economic revenue.
The setting up of University of Technology and Applied Sciences last August is testament to this approach of encouraging research and innovation and benefit from advances of artificial intelligence and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
The Ministry of Higher Education has also been renamed to Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation.
Women vital in nation-building
One of the bright aspects of renewed Omani renaissance under the leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haitham Bin Tarik is the royal attention accorded to Omani women.
The vital role of women in nation-building has been highly recognised.
His Majesty said, “We all have to ensure that women get their full rights guaranteed by law, including their right to work side by side with men across all sectors to serve their country and society”.
Last month, His Majesty conferred the Order of Royal Commendation on a number of Omani women.
Helping youth contribute to development
His Majesty described youth as “the inexhaustible wealth of nations…its hands that build”.
He voiced his sincere desire to listen to youth, explore their interests, address their concerns and achieve their aspirations.
The celebration of Omani Youth Day on October 26 came as another affirmation of the government’s commitment towards this segment of society and its determination to provide them with all means necessary to facilitate their contribution to the country’s progress.
His Highness Sayyid Theyazin bin Haitham al-Said, Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, gave a speech at the event, saying, “Omani youth have shown that they are highly capable of shouldering their national responsibility.
“This confidence stems from their full awareness about their cause and how to serve by it adopting means of advancement, coupled with clear vision and firm resolve to participate in the rejuvenating renaissance of Oman. They are open to the culture of co-existence, love and peace.”
Oman maintains foreign policy of non-interference
As soon as he assumed power, His Majesty Sultan Haitham in his first address reaffirmed Oman’s foreign policy.
He said the country advocates peaceful co-existence among nations, good neighbourliness and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
His Majesty also stressed that he would follow in the footsteps of the late Sultan Qaboos Bin Said bin Taimour.
This stance was reaffirmed by the government last September in a speech delivered by Foreign Minister Sayyid Badr bin Hamad al-Busaidi before the 75th United Nations General Assembly.
Sayyid Badr said, “His Majesty the Sultan has reaffirmed beyond any doubt that the sultanate will continue the prudent policy set by the late His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said Bin Taimour, founder of Oman’s Modern Renaissance and architect of its foreign policy and international relations over the past 50 years”.
It is worth noting that Omani foreign policy principles are derived from Oman’s centuries-old civilization, which indicate a desire to promote humanity and moderation. As a result, Oman is widely accepted as a mediator in the international arena.
Sheikh Ahmed Bin Hashil Al Maskari is the Omani ambassador to Brunei.