Kuwait plays a critical role in any projection of the world's future oil supplies. Kuwait is also one of the two major oil exporting powers that can rapidly increase production in an emergency, an important fact that will grow steadily over time. By 1770, Kuwait was a fishing and trading town surrounded by tribal families who engaged in nomadic agriculture. In 1775 the British East India Company made its first contacts with Kuwait. Between 1775 and 1779, the British-operated Persian Gulf-Aleppo Mail Service was diverted through Kuwait from Persian-occupied Basra. The outbreak of World War I prevented this treaty's ratification, but Kuwait's sovereignty received de facto recognition long before Iraq came into existence. The post war era saw Kuwait become a significant oil exporter. Salim Al Sabah confronted the need to modernize and share Kuwait's growing oil wealth. By the early 1960s, Kuwait began to move towards independence.