The Indian Ocean Pivot

Bathymetric map of the Indian Ocean

Bathymetric map of the Indian Ocean (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Indian Ocean Rising: Maritime Security and Policy Challenges
David Michel, et.al.

The Stimson Center
July 16, 2012

Even as many of us remain focused on the South China Sea and the Persian Gulf as the two “heart-seas” of modern conflict in Asia, the Indian Ocean (or “the IO” to naval officers and maritime wonks) and all that is happening on its periphery is what we should all be watching.

Where Robert Kaplan gave us a ground-level view of why the IO is so important to American policy in his excellent Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power, the team at the Stimson Center offers a fascinating deep-dive into why the region will be pivotal for the world in the coming decades.

Rather than try and make a case that the IO is a future cradle of conflict, the authors instead set out to examine the forces that are increasing the importance of, or raising tension in, the region, and let the reader decide. Piracy and terrorism are covered, and so is the region’s naval buildup. It is the book’s focus on security issues in the context energy, international law, natural resources, and environmental pressures that makes this such a valuable read.

Earlier this week, Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie spoke to The Hindu during a five-day visit to India. Asked to address claims that China was building naval bases in the region, General Liang was somewhat less than categorical in his denials.

The Chinese are, apparently, ahead of the U.S. and Europe in recognizing that there is a good chance that the 21st Century will be an IO century, not a Pacific century. The Stimson Center has created a good primer into why that is the case.

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