The Strategic Importance of the Indian Ocean

The Strategic Importance of the Indian Ocean

  • 23 April 2012

The Indian Ocean region is a large maritime-littoral space of geo-political, geo-economic and geostrategic significance. It is a highly globalized maritime space and is characterized by an extra-regional naval presence and non-traditional security threats and challenges. Significantly, economics and security are the twin drivers that have shaped the historical and contemporary discourse in the region. In its historical geo-economic construct, the Indian Ocean facilitated links among the maritime trading systems of the Greeks, Romans, Egyptians, Jews, Arabs, Indians and the Chinese. There is a strong element of continuity, and in contemporary times trade and energy flows (Arabian Gulf) link the Indian Ocean region to the global economies of the Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North and South America.

In its geostrategic construct, the Indian Ocean region has been an arena which great powers seek to dominate—an objective that continues today. In contemporary times, the region continues to be of strategic significance to the United States, China, Japan, and EU countries that are engaged in the region through their naval forces in order to safeguard their economic and strategic interests. Some Indian Ocean countries have welcomed extra regional powers to keep the ocean free of disorder, while for some there remain suspicions that prohibit cooperation with extra regional powers that are perceived as hegemonic and whose presence brings added insecurity.

At the functional–operational level, extra-regional navies have been able to optimally exploit the regional naval balance through a host of variables including economic aid, technological transfers, military aid and hardware supplies, that can be leveraged for access. At another level, multilateral cooperative maritime trends in the Indian Ocean hinge on joint naval exercises that have been institutionalized on bilateral and multilateral bases and provide cooperative naval engagements. These form the basis for contingency operations to address issues of disorder at sea, and also to respond to non-traditional security threats such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

In essence, the Indian Ocean offers scope for cooperation even though competition remains a feature of its evolving politico-strategic environment.

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Monday 23 April 2012

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Monday 23 April 2012

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