A vast expanse that holds a fifth of the water on the Earth’s surface, the Indian Ocean has long been a crossroads for merchants, mariners, and navies. The ocean is critical to the geopolitical and economic fortunes of both its littoral states and outside powers. As they have for centuries, ships squeeze through its narrow straits and sail into its deep waters, plying busy trade routes that span the globe from Africa to the Middle East, Asia, and Australia.
Today, as a space where the interests of the world’s great powers intersect, the Indian Ocean is becoming ever more important. It is a fulcrum not only of strategic competition between nations but also of an array of valuable economic and development opportunities. Yet there are few dedicated Indian Ocean programs anywhere in the world. The Carnegie Asia Program aims to rectify this gap and build a hub for some of the world’s best research on the Indian Ocean and its island states and territories.
U.S. foreign and defense policy does not treat the Indian Ocean region as one space but instead as a boundary between spaces. This division has led to fragmented policies across the region that fail to address regional strategic concerns and challenges.
Dizzyingly enormous and varied in topography and culture, the Indian Ocean is critical to global trade, security, and geopolitics. As countries jostle for influence in its crowded waterways, how will the new power dynamics play out?
With China’s near-permanent presence in the Indian Ocean likely in this decade, and the growing rivalry with America, India has no choice but to proactively try to shape the future of the Indian Ocean in its favor.
Flanked by the United States’ and China’s radically opposing interests, France has a narrow path to walk.
India now plays a crucial role in the Indo-Pacific region. But how will the country define its approach as the region takes on new geopolitical importance?
The ongoing contention between Mauritius and the UK over the sovereignty of the Diego Garcia presents a difficult challenge for Indian policymakers.
Seen from Paris, Australia’s strategic importance is still predominantly a function of its role in the Pacific Ocean. Its military presence in the Indian Ocean has for a long time been limited to the north-east, with a primary focus on the stability of Southeast Asia and access denial to Australia.
While the traditional powers of the Indian Ocean continue to work together across the maritime domain to maintain a balance of power, the role of islands in shaping a new security architecture is often overlooked.
As countries in the Indo-Pacific continue to deepen maritime collaborations between friends, partners, and allies, the island territories in the region are well-positioned to offer tremendous support and strategic leverage to India and its partners.
Ideas and analysis are valuable, but Carnegie’s business is improving policies, decisionmaking, and real-world outcomes. Excellence in scholarship and responsiveness to changing global circumstances define our work, and we are committed to making a concrete difference in the world.
Sign up to receive emails from Carnegie’s Asia Program!