Oman: Land of Sindbad, Frankincense And Moderate Diplomacy

Oman: Land of Sindbad, Frankincense And Moderate Diplomacy
The mythical home of Sindbad, the sailor and the thriving source of the aromatic sap of frankincense trees, Oman boasts a unique foreign policy amongst the Middle Eastern countries by balancing interests and exhibiting tolerance towards differences.

Over the years Oman has conducted relatively a peaceful foreign policy but at the same time has been playing active part in the region through its skilful mediation and conflict resolution expertise. Oman displays a delicate blend of tradition and modernity.

Although the country has retained much of its old-world charm, yet its residents and tourists also experience the benefits of world class highways and hotels, grand mosques, pristine boulevards, and parks. This modern blend enwrapped in the past gives us a glimpse into an ancient land embracing the mood of the 21st century. This peculiarity of Oman is particularly very attractive for visitors across the globe as it gives a feeling of immersing into the world out of the “thousand and one nights”.

Located on the south eastern coast of Arabian Peninsula, Oman is a land of seafaring people who take immense pride in their boat building traditions and navigational techniques. The stories from Sindbad’s travails, a hero from the Arabian nights and a legendary navigator who sailed from Oman also give us an insight into the seafaring trade of the bygone days. A country which relied on the sea for its livelihood for hundreds of years has a rich history of maritime culture which is on the point of vanishing, but the dhows, the traditional Arabian vessel which once sailed from Oman to China are still in use.

Today travel enthusiasts look forward to experiencing the serenity a dhow tour offers while exploring the scenic Omani fjords. The Omani government has been successfully using these enchanting dhow adventures to generate huge economic potentials and at the same time planting a sense of cultural exchange between foreigners and its citizens.

The impact of tourism in shaping political views and influencing foreign policy cannot be overlooked. It does not only assist in generating revenue for the country but also acts as a political instrument as it promotes international understanding and general good will. Oman has used tourism as an effective soft power instrument for playing in the international arena and has been successful in presenting an attractive image of the country, by creating a positive investment climate.

At the same time Oman has also been home to frankincense trees. High quality frankincense, also known as the “king of scents”, was one of the most sought-after substances in the ancient world and its trade lasted for thousands of years. Omani ports were crucial to incense trade, from where it was exported to India and beyond. This proved helpful in building connections across the globe, as ports and caravan routes were part of the vast trade network covering most of the world.

Even today, international perfume companies widely use frankincense as an important component of their perfume formulations. The incense is a popular perfume theme with base notes which give the perfume a depth that lasts for a longer time. Hence frankincense not only opened ancient trade routes in the past and connected Arabia to the rest of the world but even today it remains to be the “secret sauce” of various international iconic perfumes and highly prized essential oils, thereby reiterating the fact that frankincense can equally impact the present and future globally.

Before 1970, Oman had a limited link with the world including the neighbouring Arab states but after the pivotal coup by Sultan Qaboos with the support of the British, the country adopted a policy of moderation, dialogue, and inclusion. The young sultan initiated many wide-ranging reforms across the kingdom and also reshaped the states foreign policy.

Today Oman’s foreign policy toolkit includes tolerance, mediation, non-governmental diplomacy, and co-existence and the same time Oman has maneouvered these tools in order to face regional challenges efficiently. The country has paid reasonable amount of attention to its cultural element by considering it as an important pillar in its foreign policy and by doing so it has successfully projected its values and its dynamic culture across borders to strengthen relationships globally. Oman has not only enhanced socio-cultural cooperation but also promoted its national interests abroad. Arrangements of various symposiums, international conferences and cultural programs help to connect the international academic community with their Omani counterparts and act as a catalyst in sharing Oman’s progressive vision of tolerance and mutual understanding.

The sultanate of Oman has pursued a foreign policy of pragmatism and balanced interests. Non intervention in other countries affairs and absolute respect for international law are the political priorities of the state which have ensured stability and growth for Oman.

Since ancient times traders from Oman have utilised the incense route for transportation of goods destined to lands beyond the Arabian Peninsula, thereby enhancing connectivity and it still believes in working closely together to strengthen cooperation. Fiscal incentives and strong connectivity with other global markets have helped in creating beneficial economic arrangements and considerably improving diplomatic relationships.

Although Oman has distanced itself from the ongoing tensions of the middle east but simultaneously has been successful in balancing moderation coupled with constructive cooperation along with contribution towards consolidation of peace and security. Oman – Iranian border agreement in the Straits of Hormuz and efforts of the Sultan Qaboos in the formation of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are some examples of Oman’s contribution to retain regional relationships and address long term security concerns.

Oman has always taken great pride in its heritage and magnificent ecology and at this day and age these long-standing traditions blend harmoniously with the modern times, hence preserving the traditional aspect while galloping into the future. The sultanate is constantly up grading its infra structure and maintaining the ecological balance for those who yearn to enjoy the scenic magic and experience the exquisite seasonal wonders. Oman’s successful policies can be encapsulated the famous words of wisdom by T.E Lawrence. He said, “But the dreamers of the day are dangerous men. For they may act their dream with open eyes to make it possible”.