The Pakistani Navy commenced Regional Maritime Security Patrols (RMSP) in the northwestern corner of the Indian Ocean last month that have since seen the country’s ships pay visits to Saudi Arabia and Oman, thereby broadening the scope of Pakistani influence in the emerging Multipolar World Order. The patrols are fully in line with international law and are designed to establish a symbolic presence along the Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOC) between CPEC’s terminal port of Gwadar and the emerging markets of the Red Sea-Gulf of Aden region, especially in the Horn of Africa, that will be connected with China through this route. This in turn could serve as the prelude to stronger economic ties between Pakistan and its relevant partners because the organic outgrowth of closer navy-to-navy cooperation could predictably see the clinching of commercial deals as Islamabad learns to leverage its irreplaceable transit role along CPEC and protection of its SLOC to the advantage of its domestic entrepreneurs.
It’s not only China and Pakistan that have an economic interest in this part of the world but also their Indo-Japanese rivals, the first-mentioned of whom could now theoretically use the French military facilities in Djibouti following the signing a LEMOA-like logistics agreement with it earlier this year and also those in Oman’s Duqm after a similar pact while the second already has a base in Djibouti. Not only that, but India’s new strategic partners in the UAE vowed to cooperate with it in Africa, which could boost the joint Indo-Japanese “Asia-Africa Growth Corridor’s” (AAGC) applicability through an added influx in financing. Moreover, Abu Dhabi is already a transregional power in the Horn of Africa and has established military bases in Eritrea, South Yemen and its nearby island of Socotra, and the breakaway region of Somaliland.
The Pakistani Navy is therefore just the latest party to express an interest in these waterways and the hinterland markets that their terminal ports lead to, thus confirming the trend that the center of naval gravity is shifting in the direction of the Horn of Africa because of strategic economic reasons. The deepening “South-South” integration between Asian and African economies is one of the defining features of the 21st century, so it makes sense that military strategies will be formulated around it. Due to simple geographic and demographic factors, Africa’s second-most-populous country and its fastest-growing economy of Ethiopia is expected to be the first real battleground of “competitive connectivity” between the Silk Road and the AAGC, which explains why countries such as Pakistan are beginning to express interest in the Horn of Africa as they scope out future business opportunities.