British presence in the Gulf was first established in the 17th century. Political involvement soon followed commercial interests and a mutually beneficial protector-protégé relationship was established between Britain and the Gulf states. Whilst protecting them as political units, the British Government never made the Gulf states into protectorates in the formal sense of the word, yet conducted their external affairs. In the aftermath of World War II, Britain's focus turned to Gulf oil and modernization efforts. Even after its withdrawal in 1971, Britain's regional role remained far from inactive. Consequently, Britain has succeeded in reformulating its relations with the Gulf states in the post-Pax Britannica era on the basis of strong economic ties.