Duqm, Oman may be the American firing post in response to the Chinese held Gwadar.
The advantage for the Americans is that Oman is stable while Baluchistan is not (even if a People’s Liberation Army base comes up in Gwadar).
There is also a plan for a deep-sea pipeline between Iran and India. USA may not object to Indo-Iran links since there is a strong lobby which wants normalization between Tehran and Washington.
On Friday, India opened formal talks on a deep-sea gas pipeline with both Iran and Oman. Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khrushid met Omani
Foreign Minister Yousif bin Alawai bin Abdullah and Iranian Foreign
Minister Javad Zarif. The project, which is being discussed for the
first time at this high of a level, is expected to cost around $5
billion. The deep sea pipeline would be an alternative for India to the
proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline which ran into several
complications after Pakistan failed to meet its obligations in a timely
Afghan foreign ministry officials announced that a memorandum of
understanding for the road transit of goods will be signed among Iran,
India and Afghanistan in May (2014). “The draft of this MoU has been finalized and it will be signed by
Afghanistan, Iran and India within a month,” Afghan Foreign Ministry
Spokesman Shakib Mostaghni said in his weekly press conference on
Pakistan’s Gwadar port, holds immense strategic and economic
significance for India.
for the construction of a container terminal in Chabahar stands at
$147mln. India’s interest in the Iranian port is not only to get a direct
access to Central Asia but also to facilitate import of minerals from
Afghanistan, Khurshid said in the Afghan city of Kandahar.
High-ranking U.S. defense officials, military and civilian, have been
visiting Oman and particularly Duqm of late. A few years ago, Duqm was
just a blank spot on the map, facing the sea on a vast and empty
coastline with its back to the desert. Now, $2 billion has been invested
to build miles and miles of quays, dry docks, roads, an airfield and
hotels. By the time Duqm evolves into a full-fledged city-state, $60
billion will have been spent, officials told me during a visit I made
there — a visit sponsored by the government of Oman.
Duqm is a completely artificial development that aims to be not a
media, cultural or entertainment center like Doha or Dubai, but a
sterile and artificially engineered logistical supply chain city of the
21st century, whose basis of existence will be purely geographical and
geopolitical. Duqm has little history behind it; it will be all about
trade and business. If you look at the map, Duqm lies safely outside the
increasingly vulnerable and conflict-prone Persian Gulf, but close
enough to take advantage of the Gulf’s energy logistics trail. It is
also midway across the Arabian Sea, between the growing middle classes
of India and East Africa.
To spur development, Duqm will have a new legal framework and will
feature 100 percent foreign ownership of local businesses. Foreign
companies that invest here will enjoy tax-free status and the ability to
operate without currency restrictions, I was told.
Duqm’s biggest advantage for the Americans is that Oman has been for
decades among the most stable, well governed and least oppressive states
in the Greater Middle East — whereas the problem the Chinese have in
Gwadar is that Pakistan is among the least stable and worst governed
states in the Greater Middle East. Strategic geography for a port
requires not just an advantageous location vis-a-vis the sea, but
vis-a-vis land, too. And it is road, rail and pipeline connections from
Omani ports outside the Persian Gulf — Salalah and Sohar, as well as
Duqm — to ports inside the Gulf, from Dubai to Kuwait, that potentially
make this place so attractive.
If Duqm succeeds — still a big “if” — it will become a great place
name of the 21st century, just as Aden was in the 19th and Singapore was
in the 20th. Given continued demographic growth and the theoretical
prospect for economic dynamism in India and East Africa — even as
Europe hovers around zero population growth with stagnant,
over-regulated economies — the Indian Ocean, as I have been writing for
years, could become the geopolitical nerve center of postmodern times.
Duqm constitutes a multibillion-dollar bet that I am right.