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The Strait Guardian - Geopolitical Importance of Djibouti

Updated: Oct 31, 2022

American Soldiers in Djibouti

Image Credits: Al Jazeera

In an era of country competition, “small” matters a decent deal. Little nations seem to be the ground between the good wheels of major powers.

Small however strategically settled, Djibouti, officially the Republic of Djibouti, is a very important state within the “Horn of the continent”. Djibouti’s economy is largely smitten in the service sector. Industrial activities move around the country's trade policies and its strategic location serves the sea transit purpose. Production crops are usually vegetables and fruits, because of the low precipitation level in Djibouti and therefore the alternative food material is imported. The value of the GDP in 2012 was approximately $2.377 billion, with a true rate of 4.8% annually. Per capita income was around $2,700.

Now we've got an outline of Djibouti. Let’s return to the importance of Djibouti. Why is Djibouti important? Why is it the want of each great power to own a military base in Djibouti? What are the advantages of getting a military base in Djibouti?

Well, the solution to those queries is simple: the strategic location of Djibouti.

The small country of Djibouti, settled on the Horn of the continent, encompasses a population of fewer than one million people. Still, military strategists and security policymakers worldwide take into account the country at the highest of their lists once it involves geopolitics.

Several world powers like the United States, France, China, and Japan have maintained military bases in Djibouti for many years. India and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia might shortly join their ranks and maintain a key presence within the ‘horn of Africa’.

Military Bases in Horn of Africa

Image Credits: TRT World Research Center

Djibouti is found at the doorway to the Red Sea, which is amongst the busiest and sensitive straits in world commercialism and therefore the tiny nation plays a serious role for stakeholders so much and wide. Djibouti is positioned directly at the Bab al-Mandab Strait, and because of this, anyone wanting to sail from Asia to Europe or the other way around by ship via the shipway must undergo Djibouti, which successively will increase the importance and significance of Djibouti.

Roughly, the world’s 10% trade passes on the coast of Djibouti. so as to take care of a swish flow of shipments and prevent freight from ‘Somali pirates’, major world powers just like the United States, France, China, Brazil, India, Japan, Australia, the UK, etc. wish either to extend or establish their military presence in Djibouti.

Europeans have been interested in Djibouti since the late nineteenth century and formed it as a strategic base at the mouth of the sea. The recent wave of terrorism has given a brand new aspiration to Djibouti as a strategic location close to the world's busiest shipping lanes and therefore the Arabian oil fields. Being a part of the direct crossing purpose between the Center East and geographic area, Djibouti is feared to nurture as a transit purpose for terrorists, pirates, and weapons in each direction. It is because of its strategic importance that Djibouti is the headquarter for the European Union’s “Atalanta” military service task force combating piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Apart from Europeans interest, Djibouti is one amongst America's several outposts within the war against terror. It houses a part of Pentagon's new African Command consisting of 1500 U.S. sailors, soldiers, airmen, Marines, and U. S. Army Special Forces at Camp Lemonnier, a military service army base outside the capital, since 2003. United States military service vessels and crafts use Djibouti's facilities, and therefore the two countries perform joint military exercises.

Image Credits: India Today

Apart from European powers and therefore the US, China has had a diplomatic presence in Djibouti since 1979. Numerous high-level bureaucratic and organizational visits have taken place between the two countries throughout the last 3 decades. Chinese officers have signed numerous agreements starting from economic and technical cooperation to constructing developmental projects in Djibouti. China has built Djibouti’s People's Palace, an outpatient building, a stadium, housing facilities, and the office block of its Ministry of Foreign Affairs as aid. China has recently designed up teaching faculties in many Djibouti villages to provide education to underprivileged folks. And correspondingly, China got its first “strategic strongpoint” or military base employed by the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) to conduct anti-piracy undertakings within the waters of the sea. Djibouti’s location within the Indian Ocean’s north-western edge might probably become another of China’s ‘string of pearls’ to counter military alliances close to India, together with Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.

Image Credits: Forbes

Followed by the European Powers, the US, and China; India, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia might shortly be part of these countries and acquire a strategic strongpoint in Djibouti shortly to secure their trade routes and counter antagonists (adversaries).

The geopolitical importance of Djibouti is additionally increased as neighbouring Ethiopia depends on that for a secure trade passageway and access to the Red Sea. Throughout its hostilities with Eritrea in 1998-2000, Ethiopia was denied access to the Eritrean port of Assab. This rendered landlocked Ethiopia dependent on Djibouti to handle its imports and exports, together with vast shipments of U.S. food aid throughout the drought and famine in 2000. The Addis Ababa-Djibouti railroad is the sole line serving central and south-eastern Ethiopia and therefore the chance is being explored to make an extra road from Djibouti to extend its trade with seaports.

As geopolitical rivalries between countries are growing, Djibouti has become the ‘most valuable military land within the world, wherever each great power of the globe needs to take a position by exploiting the land and establishing garrison underneath their individual Flag.

Djibouti’s location clearly manifests its importance not solely in the middle-east however co-jointly in the Indo-Pacific.

It would be attention-grabbing to spectate the geopolitical game in coming years and know how these military bases fit into the major powers’ global strategies which will determine the future course of geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific and Middle East.




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