The American Embassy in Oman announced that the US clinched a deal to use the Mideast country’s air and naval facilities in the strategic ports of Duqm and Salalah, which the Mainstream and Alternative Medias portrayed as being connected to “containing” Iran when it actually has much more to do with “containing” Pakistan and China. Both of those coastal cities are astride the Afro-Asian Ocean’s S-CPEC+ trade routes between the Chinese-built megaport of Gwadar in southwestern Pakistan and the African markets that the People’s Republic is dependent upon for ensuring its future growth. It should also be pointed out that the Indian Navy gained access to Duqm last year, and since New Delhi and Washington are military-strategic allies after the 2016 LEMOA pact allowed them to use one another’s facilities on a case-by-case “logistical” basis, the US technically could have used Duqm under that pretext ever since then without having to sign a separate agreement.
Bearing in mind the Indo-American alliance and each country’s network of bases that are progressively proliferating all throughout the Afro-Asian Ocean, it’s obvious to conclude that this is being driven by their shared desire to “contain” China, which in the Omani context concerns the contingency possibility of cutting off S-CPEC+’s Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOC) between Gwadar and Africa in the event of a conflict or protracted tensions between one or both of them and the People’s Republic. Duqm and Salalah are perfectly positioned to serve that purpose, though that scenario is so geostrategically obvious as to have been foreseen years in advance by Chinese and Pakistani decision makers, who should safely be assumed to have already planned for that possibility and have undertaken joint steps to mitigate it from ever materializing. It would, after all, be an act of war if it occurred, so both the US and India are dissuaded from testing the limits.
Even so, the Pakistan Navy is poised to continue its modernization program and evolve from a coastal force to a blue-water one, as seen most evidently by its recent “Regional Maritime Security Patrols” (RMSP) along these very same SLOC in the Gulf of Aden and Red Sea regions. Nobody should fall for the fake news narrative that the Pakistani Armed Forces are so-called “hired guns” for the Chinese since Islamabad is preemptively preparing for the day when Singapore’s recently announced $2 billion investment in its shipbuilding industry leads to convoys of Pakistani merchant ships facilitating Chinese-African trade across S-CPEC+ and obviously needing protection from pirates and other unconventional threats. Nevertheless, this in and of itself – and especially if it’s done in conjunction with joint Chinese patrols as well – should be enough of a deterrent to any Indo-American military misadventure at sea that those two allies might one day be planning to launch from Oman.
By Andrew Korybko
Source: Oriental Review