India’s primacy in the Indian Ocean region: possibility or misplaced priority?

Diplomacy Oceans India Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean Region (IOR) is home to countries of greatly varying population sizes, land areas, territorial seas and GDPs. While globalisation has served as the basis for greater integration, the countries in the Indian Ocean region have not viewed themselves as a cohesive unit. The end of the Cold War certainly de-escalated tensions in the Indian Ocean region, but non-traditional security threats such as piracy, drug trafficking, climate change and the presence of foreign naval bases in the Indian Ocean have kept open the possibility of rapid conflict escalation.

India has always played an important role in the shaping of the Indian Ocean. As a resurgent India seeks to reassert its maritime vision and capability by building a world-class navy and articulating a maritime doctrine that emphasises the role of India as a net security provider in the Indian Ocean, the challenges posed by the Indian Ocean continue to be real and complex.

Key points

  • The Indian Ocean Region is one of the key foreign policy priorities of the present Indian Government.
  • India has the capacity to undertake the role of a net security provider in the Indian Ocean Region.
  • The growing presence of China in the Indian Ocean Region is viewed with suspicion in India, which has sought to build a collective security framework with other Indian Ocean littoral states.
  • India, Australia and the United States can play an important role by co-operating more closely in maintaining a rules-based order in the Indian Ocean Region.
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