How many of us have had any clue about Socotra Island which had recently been in news ( on June 21, 2020) when it was reported 1 that Houthi rebels had taken over Socotra Island from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) backed Yemeni government. ‘Yemeni separatists have seized control of the island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea, deposing its governor and driving out the forces of the Saudi-backed government, (and) The Southern Transitional Council (STC led by Houthi) announced it had seized government facilities and military bases on the main island of Socotra, a sparsely populated archipelago which sits at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden on one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. The Socotra governor, Ramzi Mahroos, accused coalition leaders Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) of turning a blind eye. The UAE has previously backed STC forces with airstrikes in fighting against the government in the south The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Iran-aligned Houthis ousted the Saudi-backed government for power in the capital, Sana’a, in late 2014. The Houthis say they are fighting a corrupt system. Socotra, a Unesco world heritage site due to its unique fauna and flora, is located in the shipping lane linking Asia to the Europe via the Red Sea and Suez canal’, said the report published in The Guardian. What is ironic is this report is that UAE and KSA were at loggerheads as the former supported the Houthis and the latter opposed it, and both UAE and KSA are in alignment to the idea of support to Israel, as UAE has formalised its relation with Israel and efforts ( intimidation, coercion etc from US) for KSA and other Gulf-states are on and it would be no surprise this happens before or after US president goes to polls in November 2020.
The big question is why this sparsely populated Socotra Island become important? The answer lies, or rather as the way it is said, as to how ends justify the means, UAE has decided to make Israel establish spy base in Socotra as what has come to light on August 28, 2020. ‘Israel and the Emirates are making all logistical preparations to set up intelligence bases to collect information throughout the Gulf of Eden Bay from Bab Al-Mandab on the island of Socotra, which is under the control of the Emirates, reported JForum citing Yemeni sources.
A delegation of Israeli and Emirati intelligence officers arrived on the Socotra Island very recently and examined various locations for establishing the planned intelligence bases. The purpose of such a base would be to collect intelligence across the region, particularly from Bab Al-Mandab and south of Yemen, along with the Gulf of Eden and the Horn of Africa. The report alleged that Tel Aviv’s surveillance centres monitor the actions of Houthi militants in Yemen and Iranian naval movements in the region, as well as examining sea and air traffic in the southern region of the Red Sea’ 2 informs The Middle East Monitor.
Is Israel to pursue only Iran? Certainly not as Pakistan, the two countries considered ‘hard-nuts’ as far as normalisation with Israel is considered, will also be under the scrutiny as Gwadar port of Baluchistan, Pakistan, is the end where China’s most important project China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) will conclude to reach for the whole world, as China is already making out that soon US and Allies ( India very much there) will suffocate China in straits of Malacca, and hence, China will export its goods through Gwadar port, which it now intends to link from its province in Kashgar, through railways, by an investment of 7.2 billion USD 3 . The UAE-Israeli move has sent the alarm bells ringing in China as a detailed article published in South China Morning Post on August 29, 2020, is full of the fears expressed by China that ‘US wants Arab-Israeli support in countering Beijing’s influence over supply routes seen as life-and-death matter for Chinese economy’ 4 .
No one would hazard a guess as to how much UAE will play a role in this installation, as obviously, it would be a through-and-through Israel project as ‘what is officially projected’ is that it will help keep an eye on Houthis rebels, from Socotra, which is around 350 kms from south of Yemen and its overall area is about 3,650 square kms . This Socotra archipelago still has many of its islands uninhabited . ‘Two sites on Socotra have so far been selected for spy bases, namely the Momi region in the east of the island, where the Jamgua Center will be built and a locality in the west of the island, where Katanan Center will be established’ 5. This will help Israel to directly keep a straight eye on Gwadar Port of Pakistan, which will be a great-boost to India as India is a strong ally of Israel and rival to China and Pakistan. The geo-political developments are working much to the advantage of India, for which ironically, India is haven’t even done anything.
On the other side the Gulf-states are making every effort not to let Turkey exercise any influence in the region. There is now a conflict gaining momentum between Turkey and Greece inside Mediterranean sea over the findings of ‘oil, gas and hydrocarbons’ as Greece has announced that it would extend its territorial waters from six-to-12 nautical miles, which Turkish vice president Fuat Oktay has called as an act which would be the ‘cause of war’ on August 30, 2020 6 . Israel, Egypt and UAE along with France have thrown their weight for Greece and there are efforts to anyhow entangle Turkey into a war. Turkey is also eyeing for leadership inside the Muslim world, to the scourge of KSA, as a new bloc with Pakistan, Iran, Malaysia, Turkey with the help of China and Russia is also on the cards.
Israel, or for that matter US, just cannot fancy Gwadar Port developing into a business hub of future, as US would just want the entire project be drowned in the Indian ocean, thus, one conclusion which can rightly be drawn that from now onwards Socotra Island will neither be of Houthi rebels, nor of UAE or Yemen, but its complete suzerainty will belong to Israel meaning US. Very soon the world would see, real or fake news, that an attack on Socotra has happened, by Houthis, which would enable Israel to go inside Yemen to chase for Houthis, and thus, will make Israel reach just in the backyard of KSA.
This rapidly changing scenario is altering the world situation as never before, as Pakistan which means China, would now be under the Israeli radars and if any sabotage is to happen at Gwadar then Pakistan-China would blame Israel and Gulf-states equally, hence, the relations of Pakistan and Gulf-states is going to be strained forever. The US policy to isolate China internationally, to have challenged it for the super-power status, and more recently over the spread of COVID-19, is getting towards all the desired results.
Much to the advantage of India.
The writer is a former UP State Information Commissioner. He is also a lawyer based in Lucknow.