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.
Islands have always played critical roles for great powers jostling for influence on the world stage. Small island nations in the Indo-Pacific are no different. Today, China, the United States, and other regional powers have jockeyed for favor from these island states in the Indian Ocean region. Yet often lost in the shuffle of great power politics are the interests of the island nations themselves.
Washington must continue its engagement long after the islands fall out of the headlines if it is serious about its commitment to the region.
“The continued stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific region is heavily influenced by the actions of small island states,” says Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shadid.
National Security Council Indo-Pacific coordinator Kurt Campbell on how U.S. strategy in the Pacific has evolved, what’s at stake in the upcoming presidential summit, and how China factors into U.S. policy.
Join the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Sasakawa Peace Foundation's for their 2nd Annual Indo-Pacific Islands Dialogue in New York.
While Washington and Beijing focus on defense and security-related issues, the islands are demanding action on climate change.
This map is designed to convey the strategic importance of the Indian Ocean’s geographic features and trading routes. It dispels the imaginary continental lines that countries often use to divide the ocean and instead presents the region as one continuous theater from the eastern coast of Africa to the western coast of Australia.
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