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India’s security concerns in the Indian Ocean region: a critical analysis

4 Apr 2017


The Indian Ocean has always been, and will remain, on the strategic radar of great powers. Given its strategic location with abundant oil, mineral resources and fisheries, and being a hub of vast seaborne global trade and oil routes, it has turned out to be an arena of geopolitical rivalry among world powers and regional states. In today’s age of increasing global economic integration, security in the Indian Ocean region (IOR) has become more problematic and complex given the persistent threats to the smooth flow of trade and commerce which demands freedom of navigation and security of sea lanes.

Insofar as India is concerned, as a “resurgent maritime nation,” it has myriad interests in the Indian Ocean, ranging from energy security, economic growth, safety of the sea lanes to its maritime ambition to play a leading role in shaping the security architecture in the IOR. With its growing military and economic capabilities, India is poised to develop its blue economy to ensure inclusive growth and job creation. Intertwined with its national interests, its maritime strategy is centred on providing security and political stability to its “maritime neighbourhood” such as the Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles, and Sri Lanka in the face of China’s expanding naval and strategic activities in the region. By this reasoning, China’s presence entails a direct negative impact on India’s energy and security interests, and also undermines its role as a preeminent power in the region.

Key points

  • India’s Indian Ocean policy is centred on providing security and political stability to its “maritime neighbourhood”, which includes the Maldives, Mauritius, Seychelles and Sri Lanka, in the face of China’s expanding naval and strategic activities in the Indian Ocean.
  • India has not learnt any lesson from the Mumbai terror attacks by way of undertaking efficacious measures to deal with future instances of maritime terrorism.
  • India must craft a long-term strategy not only to modernise, update and strengthen its naval resources but also to plug loopholes in its decision-making on defence procurement and policy implementation.
  • India needs to reverse the perceptions of it as a regional hegemon through policy and actions that encourage the strategic co-operation of its neighbours and help to balance China’s increasing strategic influence in the Indian Ocean region.
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