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India relives proud legacy by honouring Sultan Qaboos with Gandhi Peace Prize
The new Sultan changed the name of his country from “Muscat and Oman” to the “Sultanate of Oman”
Qaboos, born in 1940, ascended the Omani throne in July 1970 through a bloodless coup that overthrew his father, Sultan Said bin Taimur, with the help of British intelligence, and ushered in an era of extraordinary change in the country. Qaboos inherited a country that had been riven with internecine conflicts between domestic rivals for national leadership, as also a long-drawn insurgency in the south of the country – the Dhofar rebellion – that began in 1962 and continued till 1976, when it was finally put down with help of Iranian and Jordanian troops, and British soldiers and air force.
The new Sultan changed the name of his country from “Muscat and Oman” to the “Sultanate of Oman”, emphasising the unity of the nation made up of diverse peoples — Muslims who are Sunni, Shia and Ibadi (the unique native Muslim community of Oman that pre-dates the Sunni-Shia divide and the four schools of Sunni Islam), besides Hindus from India.
Again, many of Oman’s communities had originally came from Sindh, Baluchistan, Iran, Najd in Saudi Arabia, and Kutch. From Sindh, we have a Muslim community, the Lawati that perhaps originated in Hejaz. It speaks a language that is very akin to Kutchi, and has provided Oman with several urbane ministers and business persons whose defining characteristic is a deep affection for Indian culture.
Kutchis have been living in Oman for about a thousand years, functioning at the centre of a lucrative trade that saw the export from Oman of dates, horses and later, pearls from the region, and the import from India of foodstuffs, textiles and jewellery from India. These items dominate India’s export basket to the Gulf to this day.
Omani nationhood has been achieved through carefully crafted policies of all-round accommodation and opportunity, along with the insistence that faith be a matter of personal conviction, even as the public space is made available for celebrations of festivals of all communities.