The inhabitants of the area of Oman have long prospered on Indian Ocean trade. In the late 18th century, a newly established sultanate in Muscat signed the first in a series of friendship treaties with Britain. Over time, Oman's dependence on British political and military advisors increased, but it never became a British colony. In 1970, QABOOS bin Said Al-Said overthrew the restrictive rule of his father; he has ruled as sultan ever since. His extensive modernization program has opened the country to the outside world while preserving the longstanding close ties with the UK. Oman's moderate, independent foreign policy has sought to maintain good relations with all Middle Eastern countries. Inspired by the popular uprisings that swept the Middle East and North Africa in 2010-11, Omanis began staging marches and demonstrations - a small number of which turned violent in clashes with government security forces - to demand economic benefits, an end to corruption, and greater political rights. In February and March 2011, in response to protester demands, QABOOS reshuffled his cabinet, pledged to create more government jobs, and promised to implement economic and political reforms, such as granting legislative and regulatory powers to the Council of Oman.