UAE adds Socotra to its dream of guarding the Gulf of Aden in the Indian Ocean(Image: Inside Arabia)
After finding a niche in Berbera in Somaliland, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is thinking big. It has been also looking for a foothold in Yemen’s Socotra archipelago. Both moves are highly strategic. If Abu Dhabi succeeds, it would be in pole position to become the guardian of the Gulf of Aden—a key junction through which commercial and naval ships pass in three separate directions. North of the Gulf of Aden is the Red Sea—the gateway to the Suez Canal and the warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea, Europe’s maritime backyard. To the south lies the Horn of Africa and Indian Ocean coastline along east Africa, terminating further south at the Cape of Good hope. The Arabian Sea and the broader Indo-pacific region is situated to the east of the Gulf of Aden, further enhancing its strategic primacy.
For the record, Socotra is located around 230 miles from mainland Yemen and 60 miles from the Horn of Africa.
Map of Yemen and its remote island of Socotra
The ANI news agency is reporting that UAE has now upgraded the Socotra port by restoring a 90-kilometre-long pier and increasing the draft to a depth of four and a half meters so that it can accommodate larger vessels.
Socotra's prized location on account of its location between the Guardafui Channel—the gateway to the Gulf of Aden in the north—and the Arabian Sea.
The UAE made its move during the course of the Yemen war, when it was part of the broader coalition of the Gulf countries that included Saudi Arabia. During the conflict it backed the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC)
At the end of April 2018, the UAE positioned more than a hundred troops, along with artillery units and armoured vehicles in Socotra and the Guardafui channel and took over the airport and the seaport. By June 2020 it had managed to establish control over Socotra.
In parallel the UAE has unveiled a new container terminal on June 24 at the port of Berbera in the self-governing territory of Somaliland. Somaliland is a break-away region of Somalia and is not recognized by any other state. The port of Berbera is located along the southern coast of the Gulf of Aden and is being developed by DP World; a company backed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
As India Narrative has reported earlier, the event also included a ground-breaking ceremony of Berbera Economic Zone. The completion of phase one of the port’s modernisation is a symbol of the strategic convergence between the UAE, Ethiopia and Somaliland.
In the last few years, Persian Gulf powers like UAE, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been engaged in expanding their influence in the Horn of Africa and are busy opening commercial and military facilities in the Red Sea region. Major global powers like the United States (US), Japan, China and France have established military bases in Djibouti. Reportedly, India had also demonstrated interest in opening the base at Djibouti and Russia has recently announced that it will establish a military base in Sudan.