Djibouti: The Organizing Principle of the Indo-Pacific

Taiwan has emerged as an interesting actor in the geopolitics of the Horn of
Africa and needs to be considered in the discussions of Africa in the Indo-Pacific.
In 2020, Taiwan established diplomatic relations with Somaliland, a breakaway
region of Somalia. Taiwan is engaged in competition with China for recognition.
It is recognized by only a handful of countries, whereas Somaliland does not even
enjoy that recognition.58 However, many important players maintain unofficial
contacts with both countries through their trade offices or other such mechanisms. Somaliland’s geostrategic position, which is probably as attractive as that of
Djibouti, is of immense value for the evolving geopolitics of the Western Indian
Ocean. The port of Berbera, which was once an important port in the northwest-
ern Indian Ocean and even hosted a Soviet naval base, lies in Somaliland and is
being developed by the UAE.59 Once developed, it will compete with Djibouti.60
Just like Djibouti, Somaliland can also leverage its location for economic and
political benefits. In the evolving geopolitics of the region, a Taiwanese presence
in Somaliland may perhaps prove useful, as China’s rivals may seek to utilize Somaliland’s location, which is close to Djibouti, to keep a watch on Chinese activities in the Horn of Africa. Somaliland can also be helpful in monitoring terrorist
activities in Somalia. Therefore, strengthening ties between Taiwan and Somaliland adds an interesting dimension to the strategic rivalries in the region. Moreover, it also contributes to the inclusion of African littorals in the Indo-Pacific as
a smaller Pacific Ocean power such as Taiwan establishes its presence in the Indian Ocean.