The tale of the two Sultanates, Oman and Brunei: Foreign policy and bilateral relations

Gubara Said Hassan, Ahmed Hamad Al Rabaani, Maria Nejjari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Oman and Brunei are two countries with a long history of sultanic regimes. A sultanate is a kingdom ruled by a Muslim monarch. Because of these two countries’ geopolitical and geostrategic locations, they are very important in global affairs. At the same time, although situated in the highly tense regions of the Middle East and Southeast Asia respectively, Oman and Brunei are generally quite stable. They have recently become involved in China’s global economic project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Using a theory of small states, this article applies a qualitative research methodology focusing mainly on foreign policy analysis in a comprehensive analytical framework. The study uses face-to-face and by-correspondence interviews with government officials from both sultanates. It investigates whether the domestic determinants of small states’ foreign policy directly affect the bilateral relations between the two sultanates. The main finding of this study is that Oman and Brunei have greatly benefited through the establishment of a satisfactory bilateral relationship based mainly on four pillars from the list of determinants of small states’ foreign policy: historical connectivity, an Islamic monarchical dynastic system of governance, a state rentier economy, and shared foreign policy principles.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAsian Affairs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022


  • bilateral relations
  • Brunei
  • foreign policy
  • Oman
  • Sultanates

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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