The Sultanate of Oman is a Western Asia country located at the southeastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula. The Arab country occupies 119,500 square miles and is strategically positioned at the mouth of the Persian Gulf. Oman shares both maritime as well as land borders with various countries. The three countries with which the Sultanate of Oman shares a land border are the United Arab Emirates to the northwest, Yemen to the southwest, and Saudi Arabia to the west. Oman also shares a maritime border with Iran and Pakistan. The Arabian Sea forms the coastal border to the southeast while the Gulf of Oman is the northeast of the country.
History of Oman's Borders
At the beginning of the 21st century, the border of Oman was grappling with insecurity, especially the border with Yemen. The conflict led to the erection of border fences and walls along large sections to curb unlawful cross-border issues. Initially, before the discovery of oil reserves, Oman and other Persian Gulf nations had not delineated the territories. Inhabitants roamed across the Arabian desert tending to their flock. Official borders meant very little while allegiance to a specific political unit was not a must. The only places with organized authority were near ports or oasis. However, the oil era brought the need to demarcate nations to confine ownership of the precious resource leading to the concept of the modern state.
The Oman-Yemen Border
Yemen is found on the southwest of Oman. The two share a border length of 179 miles long. The border begins at the tripoint between Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen and extends southwards towards the Arabian Sea. In 1992, the border was delineated following the merger of South and North Yemen as one state. The United Republic of Yemen and Oman consequently signed an agreement which allowed for cross-border movement of people and livestock as well as the right to water and grazing land. The two countries are linked to each other by a road which was constructed through a loan of $21 million dollars granted by the Oman government. The road has played a major role in both the growth of international trade and control of the cross-border movement of people. The border has seen the growth of bilateral trade especially after setting up the Al Mazyouna economic hub in 1999 by Oman. Residents living along the border have deep ties either through trade or marriage. Numerous sensitive facilities have been built along the border, one of them being the Royal Airforce of Oman airbase located approximately 50 miles from the border point. The base is also used by US forces after a diplomatic agreement signed by the two states.
The major security threat between Yemen and Oman is the Al-Qaida in Arabian Peninsula abbreviated as AQAP. The AQAP is a terrorist group that has for many years terrorized people along the border. Over the years, Yemen has put efforts to fight the group which have led to a spillover of the group's activities into Oman. The relatively peaceful Al Mahrah province is a buffer region that safeguards the country from actions of the extremist group. Continued war in Yemen has led to the migration of a great population to Al Mahrah area where Oman has been providing humanitarian assistance. The greatest fear is that the AQAP group members may infiltrate into Oman and cause terror attacks. The threat has led the construction of a barrier along the northern border by the government of Oman. The security wall will not only contain terror groups but also curb smuggling and illegal trade across the two nations.
The Oman-UAE Border
The United Arab Emirates is to the northwest of Oman. The 250 miles border begins at the tripoint between Oman, UAE, and Saudi Arabia then extends northwards to the Gulf of Oman. In 1999 and in 2005, the two countries agreed on maps delineating their border. Despite both countries being on the list of members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the UAE government constructed a border wall in an effort to check illegal immigrants, drugs, and terrorism between the two countries. The security fence runs the entire of the border. Nevertheless, the wall has a negative effect on tourism and socialization due to restricted cross-border movement.
The Madha Exclave
The Madha exclave is a land region inside UAE but belongs to Oman. The 29 square mile territory is governed by the Musandam governorate of Oman. About 3,000 people live in the Madha. Interestingly, there is a counter exclave inside the bigger Madha exclave that belongs to UAE. The exclave is known as Nahwa. Both Madha and Nahwa have neither well-developed infrastructure nor booming economic activities.
Oman-Saudi Arabia Border
The Sultanate of Oman has a 420 miles long border with Saudi Arabia. The two countries have historical relationships, both adhere to Islamic teachings, and they belong to an association known as the Gulf Cooperation Council. In 1990, Oman settled border disputes with Saudi Arabia. Though the inner details concerning the boundary were not made public, the agreement provided for rights to share water resources as well as grazing fields. Nevertheless, the borderline is not yet finalized since Saudi Arabia is claiming some tracks of land in Oman and adjacent countries of Yemen and UAE. The border between the two nations is characterized by unmarked borderline due to the vast desert, sand dunes and a region known as the empty quarter which sparsely inhabited. Most of the border is unfenced though there are concrete posts which are placed at about 3 miles intervals. Therefore, if one happens to be somewhere between the posts, then it will be impossible to identify the borderline.
Significance of Border Barriers
More than forty countries across the world have border fences since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Most of the countries which have erected walls are in the Middle East. Some countries have walls and trenches as well as watchtowers, state of the art modern surveillance cameras, razor wire fences, human movement sensors, and communication gadgets. The barriers are to control illegal immigrants, halt terror groups from invading a country, or to prevent the illegal and harmful substance from being ferried into a country. Walls have also been erected to stamp authority and ownership in formerly disputed territories.