I was sitting at a very well-appointed dinner table in Wichenford, Worcestershire when my host Mr. Richard Britten-Long said
''Aly-Khan, if you care to think about it, Superpower status is only achieved through Naval Power.''
Of course, that made me think of episodes of ''Gunboat diplomacy'' like the Don Pacifico Incident in 1850, in which the British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston dispatched a squadron of the Royal Navy to blockade the Greek port of Piraeus in retaliation for the harming of a British subject, David Pacifico.
From the Don Pacifico incident I lept to the recently convened TICADV1 conference in Nairobi where I had heard Prime Minister Abe Shinzo in person say the following,
"Japan bears the responsibility of fostering the confluence of the Pacific and Indian Oceans"
And then a few short weeks after that comment by Prime Minister Abe, I learnt that three Japanese naval ships had arrived in Mombasa under the command of Rear-Admiral Hidetoshi Iwasaki with 750 officers. The three ships —JS Kashima, JS Setoyuki and JS Asagiri were the first time Japanese naval vessels had visited Mombasa since 1970.
Nick Turse who likes to shine a torch on US military power projection in Africa had recently written in The Intercept about a $100 million American Drone Base that was being built on the outskirts of Agadez in Niger
''Niger has positioned itself to be the key regional hub for U.S. military operations, with Agadez serving as the premier outpost for launching intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions against a plethora of terror'' [Nick Turse in The Intercept]
And then I had a kind of epiphany and said
I had begun to discount Lamu and its big dreams of being an Oil and Gas hot-spot, what with Museveni electing to go the Tanga route, South Sudan being at Ground Zero [well below Ground Zero when you consider they are $4 billion off-side with nothing to show for it] and Ethiopia working the Djibouti angle.
Then I recalled conversations with other folks who had told me with real conviction, The Americans want Lamu and they are ready to invest.
You can control the straits of Hormuz from Lamu and as I believe the Indian Ocean is a kind of appendage of the South China sea, then I have to conclude that Lamu is a national security Gig and the equivalent of the Agadez of the Sea.
So I am back to being a buyer of Lamu on the basis that it is all about having a staging post to project Naval and military power across this vast swathe of the world, an arc that runs from Mozambique all the way to India and further just like the old Dhow routes [that relied on the ''reversible escalator monsoon wind''] The Troika of powers are the US, India and Japan and given that they are seeking to triangulate China in the South China Sea, it does not take much to extrapolate that Lamu has a geopolitical role to play, which role has been obscured by the Oil and Gas chatter.