Further boost for Oman, Brunei ties

Azlan Othman

This year marks the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam.

The two Sultanates established diplomatic ties on March 24, 1984 and, ever since, the bilateral relationship has always enjoyed stable and steady development, and has attained remarkable achievements.

This was highlighted by Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman to Brunei Darussalam Sheikh Ahmed bin Hashel bin Rashed bin Hashel Al-Maskari in honour of the Sultanate of Oman’s 49th National Day on November 18.

Over the past three and half decades, Oman and Brunei have concluded numerous cooperative agreements and Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) which have strengthened closer cooperation in different fields.

The close relations are also evident by the fact that a Joint Working Group, known as ‘Bilateral Consultative Meeting’, was established in 1993 to fortify bilateral relations.

ABOVE & BELOW: His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said, the Sultan of the Sultanate Oman; and Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman to Brunei Darussalam Sheikh Ahmed bin Hashel bin Rashed bin Hashel Al -Maskari

To date, over 18 meetings have taken place, alternating between the two countries.

During the meeting in Bandar Seri Begawan in March 2018, both sides expressed satisfaction with the progress achieved in bilateral relations and agreed on the importance of continuing efforts towards strengthening the existing ties between the two countries.

In December, Muscat will host the 19th Bilateral Consultative Meeting between the two Ministries of Foreign Affairs.

“Cultural cooperation is one of the strong dimensions of our bilateral relationship. This year the Government of the Sultanate of Oman was privileged to be the first country ever to be invited as the Country of Honour at the Brunei Book Fair since it was inaugurated almost two decades ago,” said the ambassador.

Along with the main exhibition booth that showcased traditional Omani artefacts, jewelleries, literary, intellectual, artistic, scientific and historic works in multiple languages, several Omani cultural performances also took place during the opening ceremony of Brunei Book Fair and throughout its duration, such as Oud performances, live cooking demonstrations of Omani Halwa (Sweet), Henna painting and calligraphy. Furthermore, the rhythm of Omani music filled the Indera Samudra Grand Hall of The Empire Brunei on February 28, 2019 evening as guests celebrated the Omani Cultural Night held in conjunction with the Brunei Book Fair, where Oman was the first country to be invited as the Country of Honour.

Her Royal Highness Princess Fadzilah Lubabul Bolkiah was the guest of honour at the Cultural Night, where there were performances by an Omani musical ensemble as well as the SenandongBudaya band of Brunei’s Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.

Several short documentary films were screened during the event, including one called Brunei as viewed by an Omani lens.

Delegations from the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports of Brunei have been sent on a regular basis over the past five years to participate in the Muscat International Book Fair. In addition to that and in keeping with the Embassy of the Sultanate of Oman in Brunei Darussalam’s efforts to promote the Omani culture and scientific heritage in Brunei Darussalam, a fourth Omani Publications Corner named after Ibn Al-Thahabi, a well-known Omani scholar containing over 180 books was launched at the library of Universiti Teknologi Brunei (UTB) recently.

Similar Omani publications corners were officially launched at the library of Universiti Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) in February 2016 and at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) library in May 2017 and at the Religious Teachers University College of Seri Begawan (KUPU SB) library in July 2018. “These book presentations are in line with the efforts of the embassy to promote the Omani culture in Brunei Darussalam in view of the obvious commonalities between the two countries, while further strengthening people-to-people links which are important components of the strong ties between Oman and Brunei Darussalam.”

Additionally, a fifth batch consisting of four teachers from the Ministry of Religious Affairs studied Arabic Language in the Sultan Qaboos College for Teaching Arabic Language to Non-Native Speakers for a duration of eight weeks on a partial scholarship from the Government of the Sultanate of Oman.

So far, 19 participants from Brunei have benefitted from this programme. Similarly, two experts from Oman facilitated Arabic Language workshops, organised by Brunei’s Ministry of Religious Affairs, to promote Arabic Language among the teaching staff and students of Arabic schools in Brunei.

The workshop also focussed on improving schools’ management of activities and programmes related to Arabic proficiency. Speaking of students’ exchange, three Omani students from Sultan Qaboos University are studying at UBD for one academic semester. Defence cooperation is another dimension of Brunei-Oman bilateral relation that has also grown steadily over the past years. Both countries’ armed forces regularly participate in command and staff courses and other military events and trainings in Oman and Brunei.

In addition, the Commander of the Royal Brunei Land Force paid a working visit to Oman last July.Oman and Brunei have also maintained strong cooperation in economic investments over the past several years.

The Oman Brunei Investment Company jointly established by the two governments in 2009 continued to make the most of business opportunities available in Oman and Brunei local markets, to further boost the two countries’ economic development and contribute to their economic diversification plans.

Moreover, the long-standing shared values and similar energy landscapes of Brunei Darussalam and the Sultanate of Oman have been key in nurturing close ties between the two nations, with the Brunei-Oman Joint Seminar – first held in 2014 in Brunei and the second held in Muscat, Oman in 2016 – symbolising this partnership.

The biennial seminar, hosted alternately between Brunei and Oman, was established as a platform to share best practices in areas of mutual interest between both nations and to foster joint investment environments in both countries, especially in industry sectors.

This year, officials, professionals and operators from the oil and gas industry of Brunei Darussalam and Oman convened at the Prime Minister’s Office for the third Brunei-Oman Joint Seminar, themed ‘Brunei and Oman Partnership: Strengthening Cooperation Towards Enhancing Resilience’.

Held from April 23-24, 2019, the seminar’s objective was to facilitate the exchange of information and best practices between Brunei Darussalam and Oman and to allow both sides to explore bilateral cooperation in a number of areas, including upstream and downstream opportunities in the sector.

Among the topics discussed include mutual cooperation opportunities (including in-country value and manpower) in the industry, upstream and downstream oil and gas cooperation, and industry resilience in terms of sector transformation for the sake of long-term energy security in light of global energy shifts.

This relationship is further fortified with the exchange of professionals through the staff cross-posting between Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd and Petroleum Development Oman, an arrangement which 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 and we firmly believe that with the joint efforts of both sides, more positive results will be yielded in Oman-Brunei good and beneficial cooperation,” said the ambassador.

“We hope that the friendship and cooperation between the Sultanate of Oman and Brunei Darussalam will grow from strength to strength and we are confident that with the outstanding leadership of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam and His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said Al-Said, Sultan of the Sultanate of Oman and the bonds of friendship between Oman and Brunei will be further cemented in the years ahead,” the ambassador added.