Why Djibouti is strategically important for world military powers

Djibouti: China's People's Liberation Army Daily, wrote that this development was 'landmark move' that seeks to expand China's ability to ensure global peace.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: July 12, 2017 4:39 pm
Djibouti, China, China djibouti, Djibouti strategic importance, Djibouti military bases, Djibouti news Djibouti: China’s foray into this Horn of Africa is not the first one. US, France, Japan and Italy already have small military installations.

In a sign of Beijing’s growing clout, the Communist country sent ships carrying its military personnel to its first overseas base in Djibouti, Africa in a bid to rapidly expand its military reach. China had already begun construction of a logistics base in Djibouti last year that they claimed will aim to resupply naval vessels working for peacekeeping and humanitarian missions off the coasts of Somalia and Yemen. This will be China’s first naval base overseas, though Beijing describes it as simply a ‘logistics facility’.

China’s foray into Djibouti is, however, not the first one. US, France, Japan and Italy already have small military installations. But the narrative of a tiny country with almost no natural resources, high unemployment rate, and vast stretches of semi-arid desert doesn’t quite explain why global military powers are making a beeline for the Horn of Africa.

There’s one very valuable asset that Djibouti possesses that’s of prime concern to global military powers: It’s location.

What is Djibouti important?

Djibouti has largely weathered the storm in an otherwise volatile region marred by internal and external strife, and is viewed by many countries as a model of stability. Situated on the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, gateway to one of the world’s busiest trade route Suez Canal, Djibouti provides an essential port for its landlocked neighbour Ethiopia. It assumes significance as the railway between their respective capitals is completed. Infrastructure projects led by China, which include construction of maritime and airports, are present here much like in the rest of Africa.

Djibouti’s proximity to edgy regions in the Middle East and Africa makes it strategically important for military superpowers to set up their bases here. For instance, to its south-east, Somalia continues to witness unrest with global ramifications with pirates and al-Shabab Islamic militants posing a grave threat to the tense region.

Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab world, which is situated less than 20 miles north-east across the Bab -el-Mandeb Strait, provides a rather easy passage into the Middle East without having the need to be based there.

Such crises have justified the need to set up military bases in the vicinity and justified international intervention.

The United States military has its largest permanent base in Djibouti called Camp Lemonnier, which houses at least 4,000 military personnel. In fact, US Secretary of State John Kerry’s stopover here during a recent trip to Africa highlights Djibouti’s growing significance despite the presence of other prominent powers in the Continent.

But it’s not the presence of US, Japan or France’ involvement in Djibouti that’s raising eyebrows. It’s the advent of the dragon’s military ambitions in the area that is of particular importance. As per a report in BBC, a US congressman had protested before Kerry’s Africa visit that US strategic interests in Djibouti could be endangered in the face of China’s presence here. The report also suggested a more worrisome fact: that the Chinese base in the northern Obock region might eclipse smaller US bases here.

China’s foray into Djibouti and implications for India

Djibouti’s location in the Indian Ocean’s northwestern edge could potentially become another of China’s ‘string of pearls’ of numerous military alliances surrounding India, including Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

What does China’s state-run daily say about the development?

While Xinhua said in a report today, as reported by Reuters, that Beijing’s ships had departed from Zhanjiang ‘to set up a support base in Djibouti’, Global Times in an editorial said ‘there could be no mistake that this was in fact a military base’. In the editorial, it said: “Certainly this is the People’s Liberation Army’s first overseas base and we will base troops there. It’s not a commercial resupply point. It makes sense there is attention on this from foreign public opinion.”

Meanwhile, the People’s Liberation Army Daily, wrote that this development was ‘landmark move’ that seeks to expand China’s ability to ensure global peace. It supported its argument saying it has so many United Nations peacekeepers in Africa and therefore its role in anti-piracy patrols is of utmost importance.

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said the overseas base would enable China to make “new and greater contributions” to peace in Africa and the world and would also benefit Djibouti’s economic development.

(With inputs from Reuters)

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  1. L
    L bhadrapati Devi
    Jul 15, 2017 at 8:56 am
    China naval base at Djibouti is not a threat to India because it is part of OBOR to protect Chinese economic interest. Only 80 Acre of land could not accommodate even one thousand naval personal. US has a big Naval base with strong personal of 4000 may be a threat to the Gulf and Indian Ocean Rim countries. West strong prejudice against rising China is translated into propaganda war. India should not buy it because it create our own enemy. China has larger stake in Africa in Africa than West in economic development. What West did in Africa and West Asia is to promote civil war to sell the arms. Who is good or bad?
    Reply
    1. V
      Vinay
      Jul 13, 2017 at 11:18 pm
      The article is a total sham. There is no threat to India from Djbouti. India is a very big country and one of the highest population in the world. Any country which dreams to wage a war with India will get itself doomed politically, economics wise and military manpower wise. All these "threat perceptions" are media make.
      Reply
      1. I
        Issa bouraleh
        Jul 13, 2017 at 8:21 am
        Though strategic location plays lmportant part in investing The Rep. of Djibouti there so many other conditions which attract the investors . 1. Good investment code with a lot of incentives.2. Peace and security in a region of turmoil and destruction. 3. Makrket , the port ofDjibouti is the sole port which Ethiopia uses for it,s import and export. Ethiopia has a population of 80 million with purchasing power. Both countries are integrating economically by sharing electricity, high speed train from Djibouti to Addisababa Ethiopian Capital and other infrastructures like highways.4. Warm weather.5. Nice people and a lot of cheap sea food. Djbouti is open for business, it will welcome any country or companies to invest as far they are respecting the rules and the regulations of the country. 5. High return for investment(profit).
        Reply
        1. J
          Joseph Mumbai
          Jul 13, 2017 at 12:37 am
          China is following old outdated methodology. These have been tried by US, Britian and Russia. They fail. And are costly. You are at host country's mercy unless you control the rulers and impose dictatorship. Which is easier said then done. Djibouti with bases of US and allies along with China is a unstable country. Sooner or later the US will start trouble for China. The US owns whole of North and South America, the US partly owns South Korea, Japan, Singapore. The US has total control over the 7 oil producing countries in Middle East. When push comes to shove, Europe will never go against the US. They are Atlantic cousins. The US can destroy Pa kistan at will! Russia is a White nation with sympathies for white brotherhood, deep in its heart. Can China compete on this humongous magnitude. China is long long ways. The oriental race is divided even though they look alike and have similar cultural values. India has to play smart, forget third world brotherhood, poor returns.
          Reply
          1. L
            L bhadrapati Devi
            Jul 13, 2017 at 7:41 pm
            Racial at ude should be stopped. India has large Mongoloid population. Racial and prejudice at ude of West and other Kaukasoid race against China has negative impact in Mongoloid racial groups of North East. Calling of Chunky to North Easterners by people of rest of country will change the mind.
            Reply
          2. V
            Vishnu Sharma
            Jul 12, 2017 at 11:12 pm
            The Indian Navy in a counter move has to take over the island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea and use it as a large naval base. We just need to send our naval forces and take over this island. Then let a million Indians just relocate to this from Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka and start building it up.
            Reply
            1. N
              No To Klein
              Jul 16, 2017 at 2:38 am
              yes and everyone will be watching with a namam on their forhead
              Reply
            2. S
              Syed Muniruddin
              Jul 12, 2017 at 11:02 pm
              Can anyone tell me whether we already have, or planning to have Indian Peace-Keeping apparatus in Djibouti?
              Reply
              1. R
                Robert2011GB
                Jul 12, 2017 at 11:01 pm
                I can't believe that China is encircling India and all that the Indians are doing is twiddling their thumbs! Why isn't India using its diplomatic, economic and military bases to warn weak countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Myanmar not to host Chinese bases? What is wrong with India?
                Reply
                1. V
                  Vishnu Sharma
                  Jul 12, 2017 at 11:14 pm
                  The Indian Navy in a counter move has to take over the island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea and use it as a large naval base. We just need to send our naval forces and take over this island. Then let a million Indians just relocate to this from Maharashtra, Kerala and Karnataka and start building it up. It can be done in the next six months. Reply
                  Reply
                  1. J
                    Joseph Mumbai
                    Jul 13, 2017 at 12:20 am
                    Not from Kerala, Bengal and Kashmir specially Hindus.
                2. D
                  Dhanasekaran Balasubramanian
                  Jul 12, 2017 at 9:05 pm
                  it is high time india also to set up military bases in dijibouti along with all other nations.
                  Reply
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